SANTA ANA (CNS) - Orange County reported just 27 new COVID-19 infections as hospitalization numbers dropped substantially.
The new infections Friday boost the cumulative to 254,946. Meanwhile, the county logged four fatalities Friday from December and January, boosting the death toll to 5,042.
Hospitalization numbers due to the virus dropped from 75 Thursday to 68 on Friday, with the number of intensive care unit patients falling from 22 to 10.
The good news comes as more signs of a return to normalcy surface such as the reopening of Knott's Berry Farm to the general public on Friday. The Buena Park theme park is celebrating its 100th anniversary, which was put on hold due to the pandemic last year.
Andrew Noymer, a UC Irvine professor of population health and disease prevention, endorsed the state's announcement on Friday that it was still on track for a lifting of most of its COVID-19 regulations mid-June.
``I actually think it's OK what they're doing, believe it or not, but there's a caveat,'' Noymer told City News Service. ``We may need to do an about- face and go back to the world of masking at some point in the future.''
This summer is likely to represent a ``lenient period'' for coronavirus, but there may be another wave in the fall or winter, Noymer said. It makes sense now to give Californians the summer off from masking because it will make it easier to ask them to mask up again in the fall if there's another surge, he added.
``We need to understand this is not a declaration of victory,'' Noymer said. ``This is a declaration we can take it easy this summer and keep an eye on the statistics.''
Noymer added, ``I believe in the long run we'll see a seasonal pattern'' of rises in infections of COVID-19.
``We'll see more cases in the fall or winter,'' he said. ``And I don't think it will be as bad as the wave we had before, but it will be there ... You don't wear a raincoat when it's not raining and it's not raining right now.''
But Noymer said, ``We need to put the masks in a drawer, not the trash.''
The next wave is likely to have less impact because, ``We absolutely hit the jackpot with the vaccines, which by the way, works better than the flu shot.''
The death toll for May remains at four and April's tally stands at 38.
The death tolls in February and March remain at 581 and 180, respectively. The death toll for January, the deadliest by far during the pandemic, increased to 1,539. December, which was the next deadliest month, saw its death toll rise to 934.
Orange County on Wednesday officially entered the least-restrictive yellow tier of the reopening blueprint, which allows for greater attendance for many businesses such as movie theaters and gyms, while museums, zoos and aquariums can open at full capacity. For the first time, bars and distilleries can open indoors. Theme parks such as Disneyland can expand capacity.
According to the weekly state data released every Tuesday, the average for the county's daily case rate per 100,000 people dropped from 1.8 last week to 1.5. The overall test positivity rate improved from 1% to 0.9%, and the county's Health Equity Quartile rate, which measures positivity in hot spots in disadvantaged communities, declined from 1.2% to 0.9%.
The Discovery Cube Orange County, a children's museum in Santa Ana, announced Thursday that it would reopen on May 28.
The Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum reopened Wednesday for the first time since the pandemic closed it last year. That move, however, was planned regardless of whether the county moved up to the yellow tier.
``After 14 challenging months, we couldn't be more pleased to welcome visitors to the first presidential library in the county to reopen its doors,'' said Nixon Foundation President Hugh Hewitt.
The museum will be open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays.
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images