Orange County health officials report record surge of COVID-19 cases
SANTA ANA, Calif. - COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to rise in Orange County, with 69 more patients since Monday's report for a new record of 946, including 235 in intensive care, just 10 short of a mid-July peak.
The Orange County Health Care Agency also reported 1,671 new diagnoses of the coronavirusTuesday, increasing the total to 90,513. With no new fatalities, the death toll remained at 1,633.
The county has 13% of its ICU beds available, down from 18% on Monday, and 53% of its ventilators. The county added a new metric to its website Tuesday that reflected a new state metric for "adjusted" ICU bed rate, which stands at 6.7%. The last time the county's intensive care unit beds were that full was on July 22 when there were 233 patients.
The 11-county Southern California region's available ICU capacity shrunk to 10.1%.
Orange County's adjusted daily case rate per 100,000 rose Tuesday to 30.3, up from 22.2 last week with the positivity rate increasing from 8.8% to 10.6%.
The county's Health Equity Quartile Positivity Rate, which measures the cases in highly affected, needier parts of the county, rose from 13% last week to 16.2% this week.
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All of the county's metrics now fall within the state's most- restrictive purple tier of the four-tier coronavirus monitoring system.
The number of county residents hospitalized with the virus rose from 877 Monday to 946, and the number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care increased from 218 to 235.
Sixty-four residents signed up at Tuesday's Orange County Board of Supervisors meeting to comment on the stay-at-home order triggered last week when Southern California's intensive-care unit bed availability dropped under 15%.
Most pleaded for the county to ignore it.
"We plow the same field over and over and I still see the misperception in the community" about the authority of the county when it comes to the state regulations, Supervisor Andrew Do said.
Do asked Dr. Clayton Chau, the county's chief health officer and director of the Health Care Agency, to reiterate the county's lack of control over the stay-at-home orders.
"I am the extension of the California Department of Public Health, so any guidance coming down from the California Department of Public Health I must follow,'' Chau told the board. "I can be stricter in terms of issuing guidance, but I cannot be more relaxed than the state."
The board unanimously approved a resolution requesting more local control over regulating COVID-19 measures.
Supervisor Don Wagner, an outspoken critic of Gov. Gavin Newsom's management of the pandemic, said the supervisors cannot ignore orders from Newsom. But Wagner railed against state officials, who, he said, were "playing us for fools, saying you guys have to follow these rules, and they're making up the rules as they go along."
Wagner pointed to numerous instances in which Democratic political leaders flouted coronavirus regulations, including Newsom attending a gathering at a restaurant, and said it was evidence that they did not believe the rules were necessary to curb the pandemic.
"They don't follow the rules, because they don't have faith in the rules as necessary or as helpful," Wagner said.
Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett, who co-sponsored the resolution with Wagner, said, "Local control is the best way to go."
Bartlett decried a "heavy-handed, one-sided approach from Sacramento," and said counties must get out of a cycle of opening and reopening the economy. "They can't keep shutting them down again. It's detrimental, it's terrible for the workforce to be hired and fired."
Supervisor Doug Chaffee said he supported the resolution, but wanted to strip the politics out of it.
"I want to make it very clear this resolution is asking for more local autonomy," Do said. "We are in a bit of a crisis ... And the public health threat today in Orange County is the most serious since the beginning of the pandemic ... Our ICU availability is down to 13%. We can no longer rest on the laurels. We are no longer unlike other counties ... Let's focus and not turn it into a political statement against Sacramento because that will dilute the laser focus we need as a community to fight this pandemic."
Outgoing Chairwoman Michelle Steel, who was elected last month to Congress but has not resigned her county post, criticized Newsom's order and asked Orange County CEO Frank Kim to issue a memo on the consequences of ignoring the stay-at-home regulations.
"All the businesses have been locked down, we cannot walk around and we cannot gather, what's the next step here?" Steel asked Chau.
Chau told the supervisors that the county is expecting about 25,000 doses of the first round of vaccines to be doled out nationwide. If the vaccines are approved by the federal government this week, the county could receive its first portion by Dec. 15 to be administered to critical health care workers, Chau said.
Vaccines for the general public are expected in the late spring or early summer, he added.
Do said the county's new home test kits have been made available to all residents. Previously, the saliva-based home test kits were first distributed to residents in Anaheim and Santa Ana, the county's hot spots for coronavirus.
"Now these test kits are available both online and in clinics,'' Do said.
For the first time, all county supervisors wore masks through the duration of the meeting. That was because of a new guideline from CalOSHA directing businesses and organizations to instruct employees to wear masks, Kim said.
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