Orange County’s coronavirus hospitalizations increased from 401 to 416 on Sunday, reversing a recent trend of declines, according to state figures.
The number of those patients in intensive care inched up from 125 Saturday to 126. The county had 21.8% of its ICU beds and 64% of its ventilators available as of Friday, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency.
The county logged four more fatalities on Friday, all of which occurred in August. The death toll for August now stands at 110, much higher than July’s 20 fatalities.
The four fatalities logged Friday raised the overall death toll to 5,299. The OCHCA also reported 563 new infections Friday, raising the cumulative total to 289,798 cases since the pandemic began.
The OCHCA does not report coronavirus data on weekends.
The latest numbers come two days after health officials reported that a child under age 5 died due to complications from the virus, the county’s second juvenile fatality associated with COVID-19.
Officials did not disclose the age or gender of the child, but said the youth had underlying health conditions.
Dr. Regina Chinsio-Kwong, a deputy county health officer, said Friday that officials were still working to contact the family and did not know any other details.
The county’s other juvenile COVID-19 fatality occurred last August. The victim was a teenage girl with significant underlying medical conditions.
Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley, who has worked to raise awareness of the highly contagious Delta variant’s impact on children in the county, said she was told the child had pre-existing conditions from birth and was infected by an adult.
“It’s just heartbreaking,” Foley told City News Service. “But really the only way out of this pandemic — and you’ve heard me say this a thousand times — is to get vaccinated.”
Dr. Clayton Chau, the county’s chief health officer and director of the OCHCA, issued a statement saying, “My heart goes out to this family who has lost a precious young life. This is an urgent reminder that we must do everything we can to protect our little ones, the children and infants in our community who are not yet eligible for a vaccination.”
Board of Supervisors Chairman Andrew Do said, “My heart goes out to the family … We are all in this together. We all face the same risk, but whatever we can do to minimize the risk to each other is the responsible thing to do.”
Do, meanwhile, told CNS that he tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday morning. Do, who was an early advocate of masking in the county and is fully vaccinated, said it appears he may have gotten the breakthrough infection at a housewarming party for extended family last week. When he was informed that someone at the party tested positive, Do went in for a test.
Do said his symptoms were “light, but it’s building up.” He said he “will be out of pocket for a week and a half,” quarantining at home as required.
“That’s a lot of work I’ll miss,” Do said, adding he will try to keep up working remotely. But, he added, “I’m an in-person kind of guy. I’m still old school that way.”
About 96% of the COVID victims who died in August were unvaccinated, Chinsio-Kwong said. The small fraction who were vaccinated had serious underlying medical conditions, Chinsio-Kwong said.
There have been no deaths reported for September.
On Tuesday, the county’s weekly COVID-19 case and positivity rates showed significant declines, providing more evidence that the county is emerging from the summer surge.
The county’s average daily case rate per 100,000 residents dropped from 18.6 the previous week to 16 last week, while the testing positivity rate fell from 6.8% to 5.4%.
The county’s Health Equity Quartile rate, which measures the impact of the pandemic on disadvantaged communities, dropped from 7.3% to 5.8%.
The county has 2,043,693 fully vaccinated residents out of its 3.2 million population, according to data released on Thursday.
That number includes 1,908,595 who have received the two-dose regimen of vaccines from Pfizer or Moderna and 135,098, who have received the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. There are 288,020 residents who have received at least one dose of Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.
The county’s case rate for fully vaccinated residents as of last Saturday, the latest figures available, was 4.4 per 100,000, but 26 per 100,000 for the unvaccinated.
Meanwhile, Orange County CEO Frank Kim said the vaccine mandate announced Thursday by President Joe Biden — which requires companies with more than 100 employees to ensure that all their workers are vaccinated or submit to weekly COVID-19 testing — has raised many questions for local leaders.
“At a bare minimum, we have to set up a plan for weekly testing for those employees not vaccinated,” Kim said. “The challenge is we do not know the effective date of the order.”
Kim said he and his colleagues throughout the state are “all struggling with the same questions — when is it effective? And what are the specific guidelines we have to follow?”