Orange County’s COVID-19 hospitalizations continued to decrease Thursday, while nine more fatalities were logged, all occurring last month, to send the death toll near triple figures for September, according to the latest data.
Hospitalizations dropped from 224 on Wednesday to 220 on Thursday, with the number of intensive care patients declining from 60 to 54, health officials said.
The county has 25.5% of its ICU beds available and 68% of its ventilators, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency.
The overall test positivity rate in the county is at 2.9% and the case rate is 7.6 per 100,000 residents, according to Orange County CEO Frank Kim. That compares with a positivity rate of 3% and case rate of 8.7 a week ago, Kim said.
“We’re through the surge, but everyone’s concern now is what happens when the holiday season starts and more people gather indoors,” Kim said.
There’s also going to be more of an emphasis from county officials to push for more flu vaccinations in the coming weeks to avoid a double whammy of viral infections, Kim said.
“I’m pleased as punch,” Andrew Noymer, an epidemiologist and UC Irvine professor of population health and disease prevention, told City News Service on Wednesday.
“I don’t think we can ask for more right now. I am happy to see what we’re seeing and long may it continue. We’ve cleared that back-to-school has not uncorked a major wave with immediate effect. But I’m still worried about more waves.”
With many holidays upcoming, Noymer said, his “biggest fears are breakthrough cases increasing because of a laissez-faire attitude toward boosters.”
Noymer said Los Angeles is likely on solid legal ground requiring vaccinations for visitors to indoor businesses and events. He also said it made good sense from a public health standpoint.
“You can’t make the argument that you can’t make me get a vaccine because Pfizer is now fully approved,” Noymer said. “It makes sense from an epidemiological point of view. … We know vaccines reduce transmission.”
Vaccinated people with breakthrough infections can still shed virus, but it’s much less than for unvaccinated people over a week’s time, Noymer said.
Noymer doubted the Orange County Board of Supervisors would follow suit.
The county’s weekly case rate per 100,000 residents improved from 9.7 to 8, while the positivity rate fell from 3.4% to 2.9%, according to data released Tuesday. The county’s Health Equity Quartile positivity rate — which measures progress in low-income communities — dropped from 3.8% to 3.1%.
The OCHCA reported 211 new cases of COVID-19 and nine additional fatalities Thursday, raising the cumulative totals to 299,334 cases and 5,463 deaths since the pandemic began.
All of those reported deaths occurred in September, raising the month’s death toll to 99. The death toll in August was 157.
The death toll for July is 26, 19 for June, 26 for May, 46 for April, 199 for March, 615 for February, 1,581 for January — the deadliest month of the pandemic — and 976 for December, the next deadliest.
As of Oct. 2, the county’s new case rate per 100,000 people was 3.1 among fully vaccinated residents, and 16.1 for the unvaccinated.
The number of fully vaccinated residents in Orange County increased from 2,115,536 on Sept. 30 to 2,135,325 on Thursday.
That number includes an increase from 1,976,227 to 1,994,678 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 139,309 to 140,647.
There are 197,201 residents who have received one dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.
The top providers of vaccines are the Orange County Health Care Agency at 26.50%, CVS at 18.30%, Walgreens at 6.10%, Kaiser Permanente at 5.50%, UC Irvine Health at 2.80%; Walmart at 1.90%, Safeway, Vons and Pavilions at 1.20%; Families Together of Orange County at 1.10%, and multiple others below 1%.