SANTA ANA (CNS) - Orange County's COVID-19 hospitalization number held mostly steady, increasing by just two patients to reach 1,202, according to the latest state figures.
The number of those patients in intensive care rose from 180 to 188.
Many coronavirus patients entered the hospital for other reasons and only discovered they had COVID after a mandated test, but the rising numbers are putting a strain on local hospitals nonetheless, with some nurses and other staffers unavailable themselves due to the pandemic.
``Hospitals are full,'' Dr. Regina Chinsio-Kwong, the county's deputy health officer, told reporters on a weekly media call Friday.
However, local hospital officials have not been complaining as much of late about a crush of residents besieging emergency rooms and urgent care facilities for COVID-19 tests after officials urged residents to avoid the heavily taxed system unless they have serious symptoms, Chinsio-Kwong said.
About one-third of patients coming to the county's emergency rooms are specifically complaining of COVID-19, Chinsio-Kwong said.
The issue of parsing direct cases of COVID-19 and ``incidental cases'' of patients with other maladies who test positive is ``even more complex than first imagined,'' Chinsio-Kwong said.
Some patients admitted for non-COVID-19-related illnesses sometimes have their symptoms exacerbated by the virus, she said.
The county had 19.6% of its ICU beds available and 63% of its ventilators as of Friday, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency.
Of those hospitalized, 86% are unvaccinated and 87% in the ICU are not inoculated, the OCHCA said.
The county also reported 8,257 new positive COVID-19 tests Friday, along with five additional deaths associated with the virus, bringing its cumulative totals to 430,675 cases and 5,921 fatalities since the pandemic began.
The OCHCA does not report COVID data on weekends and did not update its data Monday due to the Martin Luther King Day holiday.
The county's adjusted daily case rate per 100,000 residents inched up from 103.4 on Thursday to 108 Friday. The testing positivity rate inched up from 26.8% to 27.5%, and increased from 29.8% to 31% in the health equity quartile, which measures underserved communities hardest hit by the pandemic.
``We have to be realistic,'' Chinsio-Kwong said. ``We're all going to be exposed to Omicron at some point ... so it's important to take precautions.''
The number of fully vaccinated residents in Orange County increased from 2,341,562 last week to 2,357,761, according to data released Thursday.
That number includes an increase from 2,189,337 last week to 2,205,067 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 152,225 to 152,694. Booster shots increased from 900,815 to 975,937.
In the relatively recently eligible age group of 5 to 11 years old, the number of children vaccinated increased from 46,791 to 52,803 versus 215,777 who have not gotten jabbed. It's the least vaccinated age group in Orange County. The next-worst vaccinated age group is 25 to 34, with 314,619 inoculated and 144,782 who have not gotten a shot.
In the 5 to 11 age group, 28% have received at least one dose, according to Chinsio-Kwong.
For parents still worried about side-effects of vaccines for their children, Chinsio-Kwong pointed to recent study showing that two doses of Pfizer ``significantly reduced (multi-inflammatory syndrome following a COVID-19 infection) by 91% versus those not vaccinated.''
Another study showed that children are 2 1/2 times more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes following a COVID-19 infection if unvaccinated, she said.
The most vaccinated age group is seniors at 92%, Chinsio-Kwong said.
Chinsio-Kwong warned residents away from large-indoor gatherings for Lunar New Year.
``If you choose to gather it should be small and as much as possible try to have it outdoors and with people more up to date on vaccines,'' Chinsio- Kwong said.
``If you're going to eat with others then maintain a distance when not wearing a mask ... I wouldn't encourage people from different households gathering indoors.''
In Orange County jails, the number of infected inmates increased from 178 Thursday to 202 on Friday with the number of newly booked inmates infected increasing from 44 to 46.
Of the 3,325 inmates 52.6% have received a vaccine, according to the OCHCA. Of the jail population, 126 have received one dose of a two-dose vaccine, 998 have gotten both doses, 415 received a two-dose regimen and booster, 166 received Johnson & Johnson one-dose vaccine, and 440 have received Johnson & Johnson and a booster and 1,734 have received at least one dose of any COVID-19 vaccine.