COVID-19 hospitalizations declining in Orange County

ANAHEIM, CA - JANUARY 08: Sandra Efigenio, an AltaMed employee, looks away as she receives the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine from registered nurse Darlene Dickens-Jeffers, left, at AltaMed Medical and Dental Group in Anaheim on Friday, January 8, 2021. (P

Orange County reported 1,795 new cases of COVID-19 and 13 additional deaths, bringing the county's totals to 223,288 cases and 2,638 fatalities since the pandemic began.

As of Sunday, there were 1,732 people hospitalized countywide with the disease, 467 of whom are in the intensive care unit, according to the
Orange County Health Care Agency. Those numbers are down from 1,818 and 482 on Saturday.

The county's state-adjusted ICU bed availability remains at zero, and the unadjusted figure decreased from 9.6% to 9.5%. The state created the adjusted metric to reflect the difference in beds available for COVID-19 patients and non-coronavirus patients. The county has 35% of its ventilators available.

The Southern California region remains at zero ICU availability. OC's seven-day test positivity rate was 16.7% on Sunday, up from 14.5% on Friday.

"It's a continuation of the trends we've seen,'' Orange County CEO Frank Kim said late last week. "What this tells me is that all of the indicators are consistent. The testing rate is still high, so these aren't false numbers. Hospitalizations are down, the ICUs are trending down and the case positivity is coming down.''

But, he added, "If you look at our numbers they're still very high compared to where we were before early November and the holidays, so it's not time to celebrate yet.''

The county's Health Equity Quartile Positivity Rate, which measures the cases in highly affected, needier parts of the county, declined from 24.2% last week to 21.2%.

So far, the county has vaccinated about 55,000. The county's app and website, Othena, is functioning much better after some bugs were ironed out, Kim said.

"We have a virtual queue now so the one issue we'll get is people will get frustrated they're not hearing from us because they're number 250,000 in the queue,'' Kim said. "But you no longer have to smash the buttons and try to get in when 3,000 slots open up.''

RELATED: Despite illness reports, California says batch of Moderna vaccine can be used

The app has logged about 400,000 registrants, Kim said. There have been some complaints on social media from users who said they were turned away with an appointment, but Kim said about two dozen people not qualified in the state's first tier for vaccines have shown up with appointments demanding shots. If they don't meet the standards for the first phase, they have been turned away, Kim said.

The latest Super POD site for vaccinations opened Saturday at Soka University of America in Aliso Viejo. There are about 2,500 to 3,000 appointments registered for Soka so far, Kim said.

The county hopes to ultimately open up to five large-scale vaccination sites, but until supplies of vaccines are assured, it likely won't happen.

The OCHCA reported 15,466 tests on Sunday, for a total of 2,560,248. There have been 153,862 documented recoveries.

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