Orange County's COVID-19 Hospitalizations Keep Climbing


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SANTA ANA (CNS) - Orange County reported more than 40 additional COVID-19 patients as the Delta variant of the coronavirus fuels a surge among unvaccinated residents.

Hospitalizations due to the virus increased from 333 on Tuesday to 375 on Wednesday, with the number of intensive care unit patients increasing from 62 to 68, the same number as reported on Monday. The county had 24% of its intensive care unit beds available and 73% of its ventilators.

The last time the county had this many people hospitalized with the virus was March 3, and ICU numbers have not been this high since mid-March.

“Monday the hospitalizations were up considerably and Tuesday they were up but not by as much and now it looks like they are up more and so I'm not liking this,'' said Andrew Noymer, an epidemiologist and UC Irvine professor of population health and disease prevention.

“I realize I'm sounding like a broken record, but the hospitalizations are what matters,'' Noymer said. “... Hospitalizations are not fake news. That's people in the hospital, so they are in-patients, and I don't know how many times I have to say it. The hospitalizations is where it's at and it's going up and it's making me uncomfortable.''

Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley also called the rising number of COVID-19 hospitalizations worrisome.

“I'm concerned,'' Foley said. “There are some people who are like `we don't have to be concerned because the people who are getting infected are not vaccinated,' but I don't agree with that. I don't wish COVID on anyone. I am concerned about the numbers right now. They are only increasing. We're not stabilizing, not decreasing.''

Foley said there are 11 children hospitalized for COVID-19 at Children's Hospital of Orange County.

Orange County CEO Frank Kim said state officials have reported that 18% of Californians who get infected are eventually winding up in a hospital within 10 days.

“That goes to the fact that the majority of individuals in hospital beds are unvaccinated,'' Kim said.

Orange County officials estimate the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients fluctuates between the low 90 percentile to high 90 percentile of unvaccinated residents, Kim said.

Another headache county officials are dealing with is carrying out a state requirement issued last week that requires checking the vaccination status of some government employees who work in facilities with high-risk people such as homeless shelters, jails and hospitals. Those who are unvaccinated must be tested weekly.

“It's a huge administrative lift,'' Kim said of the new program, which begins Aug. 23.

The county's average daily case rate per 100,000 residents increased from 8 to 12.7, and the test positivity rate jumped from 4.9% to 6.9%, according to weekly averages released Tuesday.

The county's Health Equity Quartile rate, which measures the disadvantaged communities hardest hit by the pandemic, increased from 4.4% to 6.6%.

The county reported only 92 new infections on Wednesday, but that may have been due to the state's system releasing data from an 18-hour period instead of a 24-hour period. The cumulative case count is now at 267,131. On Tuesday, the county reported 872 new infections.

No new fatalities were logged Wednesday. The death toll remains at 5,143 since the pandemic began.

The death toll for July is 4; 15 for June; 22 for May; 43 for April; 199 for March; 612 for February; 1,563 for January -- the deadliest month of the pandemic -- and 968 for December, the next deadliest.

Noymer said the only way out of the pandemic is through vaccination. Anyone relying on a past infection for immunity is vulnerable to getting COVID- 19 again, he said.

“Natural immunity is not so robust against the variants, which is unusual, but it is what it is. It's the reality,'' Noymer said. “If anything, the immunity from the vaccine seems to be more robust, believe it or not, which is also unusual. This is an unusual virus. It's not the same as the flu or measles, so it has slightly different rules.''

Vaccinations have been picking up nationally. The number of people in Orange County who have received at least one dose of vaccine stands at 1,965,282 as of July 26, according to the state's database.

As of Thursday, the OCHCA reported that 1,897,664 people in Orange County were fully vaccinated. The county has 1,773,927 fully vaccinated residents who have received Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, which require two shots. The county has 123,737 who have received the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Copyright 2021, City News Service, Inc.

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