SANTA ANA (CNS) - Orange County is seeing a jump in COVID-19 hospitalizations and fatalities this month, with experts noting that the deaths are skewing toward younger ages because the vaccination rate is so high among the county's seniors.
Four of the five fatalities logged Friday occurred in August, with the most recent happening Aug. 18 and two more on Aug. 17, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency. Two of the deaths were people in the 25-to-34 age range.
Vaccinations have steeply driven down the death toll each month since records were set in December and January, but it now appears they are trending back upward due to the more contagious Delta variant of the virus.
The death toll for August is now 27, higher than July's 17. This marks the first time since the winter surge that there has been a month-to-month increase in fatalities.
The death toll for June is 15, with 23 fatalities in May, 44 in April, 199 in March, 615 in February, 1,574 in January -- the deadliest month of the pandemic -- and 969 in December, the next-deadliest.
Hospitalizations, which many experts consider the key statistic to track the progress of the pandemic, jumped from 565 on Thursday to 592 Friday, with the number of intensive care unit patients rising from 122 to 132. Until Friday's bump, hospitalizations were steady last week.
Dr. Clayton Chau, the county's chief health officer and director of the OCHCA, said hospitalized COVID-19 patients are “generally in their mid 30s to mid 40s.''
The OCHCA reported 930 new positive COVID-19 tests on Friday, bringing the county's totals to 283,573 official cases and 5,202 deaths since the pandemic began.
By Monday, officials say they will get a sense if students returning to classes have contributed to a new wave of infections. Chau said he had his weekly call with superintendents on Friday.
“They've noticed more cases of kids who come to school and get infected from outside of school,'' he said.
Chau said there has been a “drop in cases from 19- to 24-year-olds,'' but added, “I am bracing myself -- and hopefully it won't happen -- but I have a suspicion we'll see a rise in cases of children.''
The OCHCA released updated vaccination numbers Thursday, showing 1,989,131 fully vaccinated residents. That includes 1,857,185 who received the two-dose Moderna or Pfizer vaccines and 131,946 who received the one-dose Johnson & Johnson shot.
The case rate per 100,000 residents as of Aug. 21 was 35.9 for unvaccinated residents, but 6.5 for the fully vaccinated.
The county had 20.2% of its adult ICU beds and 69% of its ventilators available as of Friday. The OCHCA does not update its figures on weekends.
Health experts note that many of the infections being logged are due to an increase in testing and many are among vaccinated residents so the symptoms are not leading to serious illness requiring hospitalization. Some are being caught as patients are admitted to hospitals for unrelated reasons.
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