Orange County's COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations continue to drop

Hospitalizations for COVID-19 continued a downward trend in Orange County on Friday, but 30 more fatalities were logged, raising the death toll to 3,279.

Despite the positive trends with case and positivity rates, Orange County CEO Frank Kim said he is nervous about Super Bowl weekend leading to another spike.

"I'm worried about the Super Bowl," Kim said. "The concern is that the governor has lifted the stay-at-home order and there's a general sense of euphoria seeing older relatives and family members getting vaccines, so there's a sense of safety we haven't felt in a long time."

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Kim said some younger adults might let their guard down and "go out and interact in unsafe ways during Super Bowl weekend, and I would hate to see us have a spike."

Hospitals are stepping up vaccinations as the number of patients has gone down, Kim said.

"Why are they able to do that? Because the hospital bed census is coming down," he said. "We could lose an important teammate, an ally in the vaccination efforts (if there is a spike), and we can't have that. We need to build on the momentum that has been hard-fought since the holidays started in November."

The county reported 1,028 new coronavirus cases on Friday, raising its cumulative total to 236,338 cases. Over the past few days, the county's case count has been in the hundreds and Friday was the first time since the start of the week that it was over 1,000, but Kim said that was not concerning.

Kim noted that the county's numbers are mirroring San Diego County's, which signals a positive trend.

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As of Friday, Orange County's positivity rate was 10.2 and its case rate per 100,000 population was at 32.5, Kim said.

The number of coronavirus patients in hospitals in Orange County continues its downward trend, declining from 1,238 on Thursday to 1,233 on Friday, with the number of patients in intensive care dropping from 365 to 342, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency.

The county's state-adjusted ICU bed availability remains at zero, and the unadjusted figure increased from 9.6% on Thursday to 11.1% Friday. The state created the adjusted metric to reflect the difference in beds available for COVID-19 patients and non-coronavirus patients.

The OCHCA reported 15,006 tests on Friday, bringing the total to 2,748,226.

Of the latest reported deaths, four were skilled nursing facility residents, hiking the total to 857. Three were assisted living facility residents, hiking that total to 359.

Since Sunday, the county has logged 261 coronavirus-related fatalities. Last week, the county reported 393 coronavirus deaths, up from 305 the week before. The death reports are staggered because they come from a variety of sources and are not always logged immediately.

The death toll for January stands at 742. December was the deadliest month since the start of the pandemic, with 836 people succumbing to coronavirus.

The outbreak in the county's jails continued to decline. The number of inmates infected dropped from 22 on Thursday to 17 on Friday, with one inmate hospitalized. The county is awaiting the result of 359 tests.

Outbreaks -- defined as two or more confirmed cases over the past two weeks -- have gone down in the county's nursing homes. As of Wednesday, there were 19 outbreaks in skilled nursing facilities and 28 elderly assisted living facilities.

Fairview Developmental Center in Costa Mesa, which is being used to care for patients with symptoms no longer requiring hospitalization, was treating 24 Orange County residents, eight Los Angeles County residents, three Riverside County residents and one San Bernardino County resident as of Wednesday.

The adjusted daily case rate per 100,000 people dropped from 46.6 last week to 39 on Tuesday, and the test positivity rate on a seven-day average, with a seven-day lag, dropped from 12.9% to 10.9%. The numbers for the state's color-coded tier framework are updated on Tuesdays.

The county's Health Equity Quartile Positivity Rate, which measures the cases in highly affected, needier parts of the county, declined from 16.6% last week to 13.9%.

To move to the less-restrictive red tier from the top purple tier in the state's coronavirus regulatory system, the county has to improve to 4 to 7 new daily cases per 100,000 and a 5% to 8% positivity rate with a health equity quartile at 5.3% to 8%.