Orange County at risk of reverting to most restrictive purple tier as COVID-19 infection rates rise

It’s not that Orange County reported 335 new cases of COVID-19 and two additional deaths Wednesday, that may send it back into the most restrictive purple tier in the state’s Coronavirus metrics. After all, the positivity rate was actually down Wednesday, if slightly. 

However, the trend is troubling, especially at Santa Ana's UCI Family Health Center, where the rate of infection went up by 11% in a week. 

Santa Ana and Anaheim continue to be the O.C. cities with the highest rate of infections, especially among Latinos.

Dr. Jose Mayorga explained that the clinic is smack in the middle of a Latinx community, where many people have continued to work in essential jobs because they can’t afford not to.

A Caltrans Changeable Message Sign (CMS) warns motorists on the Interstate 5 freeway to not gather in crowds as the threat of Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) increases throughout the nation. (Photo by DAVID MCNEW/AFP via Getty Images)

We asked if more people testing could account for the jump, after all, there has been a push to get more people tested. While he thinks that may play a part, he added that it’s no surprise that the numbers are jumping up, more rapidly than usual, about 10 days after Halloween.

Contact tracing seems to indicate more people are gathering as the holiday's approach — which scares health officials.

They are already expecting the trend in the East Coast, where cold weather has been one factor in the dramatic increase of COVID-19 infections. Health experts believe this same trend will eventually affect our numbers in California. 

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But keeping things in perspective, the number of people who are recuperating from the virus is also increasing. The change in the three-day average of hospitalized patients actually decreased — from 13.7 to 16.6%. Doctors are catching the virus and treating it more effectively, before and even after patients are hospitalized. 

"We know a lot more about the virus," said Dr. Mayorga, quickly adding that, "we don’t know much about the after effects of COVID yet."

He feels positive about the vaccine trials but urges people to not get complacent.

The best way to stop Orange County from reverting into the purple tier (and closing down inside access to restaurants and gyms, for example), is for people to do all they can to stop the spread. Still, he fears Orange County will be back in the purple before the end of the year, if the trends continue.

Masks, especially if people do gather for the holidays is important, he says.

Earlier this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released updated guidelines for Thanksgiving celebrations.

The CDC's updated guidance includes considerations to slow the spread of the virus during small gatherings, but say they are meant to supplement, and not replace, local health and safety laws and regulations.

RELATED: CDC releases updated Thanksgiving guidelines focusing on small household gatherings

The CDC said celebrating virtually or with members of your own household poses the lowest risk of spread during the holiday. Bringing together family members or friends from different households, including college students returning home, poses varying levels of risk.

The organization recommended hosting Thanksgiving gatherings outdoors, rather than indoors, and requiring guests to wear masks when they aren't eating or drinking is also encouraged. If you are hosting an indoor gathering, the CDC says to increase ventilation as much as possible by opening windows and doors.

RELATED: Stay up to date on all coronavirus-related information