SANTA ANA - Orange County today reported just one COVID-19 death and there was additional good news in a declining number of cases and hospitalization rates.
Orange County CEO Frank Kim said the positivity rate has also declined -- from 19.7% on Jan. 10 to 14.5% on Friday.
“It's a continuation of the trends we've seen,'' he said. “What this tells me is that all of the indicators are consistent. The testing rate is still high, so these aren't false numbers. Hospitalizations are down, the ICUs are trending down and the case positivity is coming down.''
But, he added, “If you look at our numbers they're still very high compared to where we were before early November and the holidays, so it's not time to celebrate yet.''
The death reported Friday occurred on Jan. 4, and brings the cumulative number of coronavirus-related fatalities in the county to 2,547. The last known confirmed death happened on Jan. 13, so it is likely many more fatalities will be reported in the coming weeks as reports roll in periodically from multiple sources.
Since Sunday, the county has reported 227 coronavirus-related fatalities. Last week, the county reported 279 deaths, up from 140 the prior week.
The death toll for December, the deadliest month since the pandemic began, stands at 712, far outpacing the previous high of 379 in July during the summer surge.
The deadliest day since the pandemic started was Dec. 22, when 44 people died.
One fatality not included in the latest reports was Thursday's death of murder defendant Ah Le Fang, the second inmate infected with COVID-19 to die in custody in Orange County since the pandemic began. Fang was charged in 2017 with fatally stabbing his 50-year-old mother, Lu Thao, and wounding her 75-year-old boyfriend.
Hospitalization numbers continued to dip, dropping from 1,935 Thursday to 1,896 on Friday, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency. The number of coronavirus patients in intensive care went from 517 to 516.
The county's state-adjusted ICU bed availability remains at zero, and the unadjusted figure increased from 5.4% to 9.6%. The state created the adjusted metric to reflect the difference in beds available for COVID-19 patients and non-coronavirus patients. The county has 35% of its ventilators available.
The Southern California region remains at zero ICU availability.
The HCA reported 892 new cases Friday, raising the cumulative total to 218,741. The 25,057 tests logged Friday raises the cumulative total to 2,519,520.
The county's adjusted daily case rate per 100,000 has decreased to 67.1, from 78.8 last week.
The county's Health Equity Quartile Positivity Rate, which measures the cases in highly affected, needier parts of the county, declined from 24.2% last week to 21.2%.
Vaccinations at the inaugural Super POD site at Disneyland continued on Friday, after wind-driven closures Tuesday and Wednesday. So far, the county has vaccinated about 55,000, Kim said.
The county's app and website, Othena, is functioning much better after some bugs in it have been ironed out, he said.
“We have a virtual queue now so the one issue we'll get is people will get frustrated they're not hearing from us because they're number 250,000 in the queue,'' Kim said. “But you no longer have to smash the buttons and try to get in when 3,000 slots open up.''
The app has logged about 400,000 registrants, Kim said.
There have been some complaints on social media from users who said they were turned away with an appointment, but Kim said about two dozen people not qualified in the state's first tier for vaccines have shown up with appointments demanding shots. If they don't meet the standards for the first phase, they have been turned away, Kim said.
The next Super POD site for vaccinations will open Saturday at Soka University of America in Aliso Viejo. There are about 2,500 to 3,000 appointments registered for Soka so far, Kim said.
The county hopes to ultimately open up to five large-scale vaccination sites, but until supplies of vaccines are assured, it likely won't happen.
With the post-holiday case surges and deaths, the Orange County Sheriff's Coroner's Department has had to provide trailers with freezers to store an average of about 100 bodies until funeral homes can catch up and take them, Kim said.
Supervisor Lisa Bartlett said there have been problems with hospitals getting bodies to the coroner's freezers, which have capacity for 1,100 bodies, because physicians are struggling with the paperwork as they care for patients.
Other issues include caps on cremations, which the county may have to lift, and burials at cemeteries, which will have to be negotiated with union workers, Bartlett said.
The outbreak in the county's jails has continued to decline with the number of infected inmates dropping from 61 to 55 on Friday. Authorities were awaiting results of 411 tests. The number of inmates hospitalized dropped from three to two, with Fang's death.
Outbreaks at nursing homes -- defined as two or more over the past two weeks -- continue with 36 skilled nursing facilities reporting outbreaks and 49 elderly assisted living facilities reporting an outbreak as of Thursday.
The delays in dropping off patients from ambulances to local hospitals increased from an average wait time 90% of the time 29 minutes, 23 seconds on Wednesday to 38 minutes, 18 seconds as of Thursday.
There are 15 Orange County residents being treated at Fairview Developmental Center in Costa Mesa, which was set up to handle overflow from local hospitals, and 11 patients from Los Angeles County.
Mobile field hospitals, which have been set up to help medical centers triage COVID-19 patients, are in operation at UC Irvine, which added 50 beds, Fountain Valley Regional Hospital and Medical Center, 25 beds, and St. Jude's Hospital in Fullerton with 52 beds, Kim said.
Officials are in the process of setting up or discussing mobile field hospitals at Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo and Los Alamitos Medical Center.
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