SANTA ANA (CNS) - Orange County's COVID-19 hospitalizations fell below 300 for the first time in two months, as weekly averages posted in the latest data showed more encouraging news in a slowdown of the Delta variant-fueled summer surge.
The county's weekly case rate per 100,000 residents improved from 11.3 to 9.7, while the positivity rate fell from 3.7% to 3.4%. The county's Health Equity Quartile positivity rate -- which measures progress in low-income communities -- dropped from 4.2% to 3.8%.
“Those numbers look good,'' Andrew Noymer, an epidemiologist and UC Irvine professor of population health and disease prevention, told City News Service on Tuesday.
The number of hospitalized patients dropped from 300 Monday to 288, with the number of intensive care unit patients declining from 80 to 72, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency.
The county has 24.2% of its ICU beds available and 66% of its ventilators.
The last time hospitalizations were at this level was the end of July.
“Hospital numbers are down significantly compared to a week ago,'' Noymer said. “Things are moving in the right direction. All of Southern California, not just Orange County, is looking good. Things are getting better.''
Noymer added, “I'd say don't let our guard down. We need to keep masking.''
Orange County CEO Frank Kim said Monday that the county was seeing a “continued decline in testing positivity.''
“We do feel this last wave is coming toward an end,'' Kim said.
Kim noted there has also been a slight increase in vaccination rates.
Orange County Board of Supervisors Chairman Andrew Do and Supervisor Katrina Foley got into a heated discussion Tuesday, with Foley questioning the county's chief health officer, Dr. Clayton Chau -- who is also the director of the OCHCA -- in an extension of their recent feud over protocol.
Do said he felt Foley was expanding discussion on unrelated topics as the board was set to vote on a relatively routine agenda item. Foley argued that since the agenda item covered a grant for outreach on vaccination, it was appropriate to question Chau on where the county was in terms of vaccination levels.
“We have to have some kind of order,'' Do snapped at Foley.
“You're disrupting the order,'' Foley angrily shot back.
When Do scolded her for interrupting him, she said, “You're interrupting me. You interrupted my question.''
Do replied, “You may have this desire to turn every meeting into a circus,'' which prompted Foley to shoot back, “You turned it into a circus ... because you don't like my questions for some unknown reason.''
Do replied, “Every question leads to something else with you ... Now we're going into a COVID update.''
Foley said, “I would think you of all people would care about COVID,'' referring to the fully vaccinated Do's breakthrough infection.
That drew a rebuke from Supervisor Don Wagner.
“I understand the heat of rhetoric,'' Wagner said. But, he said, no matter anyone's health status on the board, “All of us care about COVID, and to suggest you have to have it for it to matter to us is truly an unfortunate rhetorical flourish in the heat of argument and I object to it.''
Chau said the county by now “should be over 70% of eligible individuals,'' who have received at least one dose of vaccine. He said the vaccination rate among seniors is about 90%.
The county logged another 13 COVID-19-related fatalities on Tuesday, raising the cumulative total to 5,418. One of the deaths was in the 18-24 age range.
Of the fatalities logged Tuesday, 12 occurred in September and the other one was in August.
The death toll for September is 62 and 156 for August.
That marks a stark contrast with the rest of the summer. The death toll for July was 22, 19 for June, 23 for May, 46 for April, 199 for March, 615 for February, 1,580 for January -- the deadliest month of the pandemic – and 976 for December, the next deadliest.
Dr. Regina Chinsio-Kwong, deputy county health officer, said Friday that 94% of the people who died in August were unvaccinated.
Without vaccines the death toll from this summer's surge, which was fueled by the more contagious Delta variant, would have been higher, Chinsio-Kwong said.
“We could have been losing more people to Delta if we didn't have the vaccination rates we have,'' Chinsio-Kwong said.
Eight of the people who died from COVID complications in August were vaccinated and at least 65 years old, Chinsio-Kwong said. Seven were older than 75 and one who was between 65 and 74 was in a skilled nursing facility, she added.
All Orange County residents who died from COVID complications in September were not fully vaccinated, Chinsio-Kwong said. One had received one of two doses of the Moderna vaccine and the others did not receive any doses, she added.
The county on Monday also logged another 235 infections, raising the cumulative total to 296,932 since the pandemic began.
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