Omicron Beginning to Dominate in Orange County, Health Official Says

Coronavirus mutation

Photo: Getty Images

SANTA ANA (CNS) - The number of Orange County residents hospitalized with the coronavirus increased from 218 to 229 today, but the number of those patients in intensive care dropped from 58 to 54, according to the latest state figures.

The latest number come one day after county health officials reported 655 new cases of COVID-19 and five additional virus-related deaths, bringing the county's cumulative totals to 322,550 cases and 5,864 fatalities since the pandemic began.

The case rate per 100,000 residents was 10.2 with a test positivity rate of 3.1%, and 3.6% in the health equity quartile, which represents the neighborhoods hardest hit by the pandemic, the Orange County Health Care Agency reported.

The OCHCA does not report COVID data on weekends or holidays.

The county's deputy health officer told reporters Thursday that the new and highly contagious Omicron variant is likely much more prevalent in the county than the two cases confirmed so far.

``I suspect the projected data of actual prevalence of Omicron is probably above 60%'' of the county's cases, Dr. Regina Chinsio-Kwong said in a weekly call with reporters.

The data ``lags'' about a week to 10 days, she said.

``We suspect most of those are Omicron,'' Chinsio-Kwong said of the uptick in COVID-19 infections. ``There will still be a mixture of Delta.''

Residents should do all they can to avoid getting infected by using a ``snug and fit'' face covering when indoors or congregating in large crowds or getting vaccinated, Chinsio-Kwong said.

Even if the new variant presents milder symptoms, there's just as much reason to try to prevent transmission, she said.

"Every time it infects an individual, it has a chance to mutate,'' Chinsio-Kwong said. ``We need everybody to take precautions and to limit the spread of COVID.''

Testing has been on the rise, she said.

``We know there's a lot more testing going on because antigen tests are flying off the shelves, and antigen tests are not reported,'' Chinsio-Kwong said.

Parents should be on the lookout for more testing done before students return to classes following the winter break, she added.

The county had 20.3% of its ICU beds and 68% of its ventilators available as of Thursday. Of those hospitalized, 87% were unvaccinated and 88% in intensive care were unvaccinated.

The case rate per 100,000 for the unvaccinated is 30.9 as of Dec. 18, the most recent statistics available. That's up from 25.4 on Dec. 11.

For the vaccinated, the case rate is 6.8, up from 3.8 as of Dec. 11.

Studies show that Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are at least 70% effective against infection for the Omicron variant, Chinsio-Kwong said, adding that they nearly always protect recipients from hospitalization or death.

The number of fully vaccinated residents in Orange County increased from 2,295,286 to 2,314,232, according to data released Thursday. That represents 67% of the county, Chinsio-Kwong said.

That number includes an increase from 2,144,648 to 2,162,816 of residents who have received the two-dose regimen of vaccines from Pfizer or Moderna.

The number of residents receiving the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine increased from 150,638 to 151,416. The county has dispensed 768,412 booster shots.

Photo: Getty Images

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