Orange County reported 223 new cases of COVID-19 and two more deaths Sunday, bringing the county's totals to 49,732 cases and 1,053 fatalities.
Hospitalizations in the county dropped from 274 on Saturday to 253, while the number of people in intensive care declined from 83 to 77, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency.
The rate of county residents testing positive for COVID-19 was at 5%, which is below the state's desired threshold of 8%.
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The OCHCA reported that 696,048 COVID-19 tests have been conducted, including 5,305 reported Sunday. There have been 43,330 documented recoveries.
Meanwhile, county health officials have been told the county is expected to move up from the purple to the red tier by Tuesday as it has met the state's metrics for two weeks.
The county's new case rate per 100,000 residents over seven days is 5.6. To move to the next tier, the county has to be between 4 and 7.
"This significant move to the red tier for Orange County indicates that we are hopefully getting the upper hand on COVID-19," Supervisor Lisa Bartlett said.
How Coronavirus Has Grown in Each State — in 1 Chart
This chart shows the cumulative number of cases per state by number of days since the 50th case.
Source: The COVID Tracking Project
Credit: Amy O’Kruk/NBC
"Our numbers are holding steady or declining, we still have excess capacity in our hospital system and as long as we all continue to follow prescribed health and safety guidelines our trend should keep improving in the county. I look forward to cautiously opening up our local economy so we experience some level of normalcy once again in our day-to-day lives."
Under the red tier of Gov. Gavin Newsom's Blueprint for a Safer Economy unveiled Aug. 28, the county will be able to reopen movie theaters and restaurants for indoor dining at 25% capacity and churches for indoor worship at 25% capacity.
Shopping centers may expand from 25% capacity to half capacity under the red tier.
The county now meets all of the state's metrics to move up to the state's red tier, up from purple, the worst level. The state unveiled the four-tier economic-recovery roadmap last week.
Individual counties must meet state standards for new cases per 100,000 residents and testing-positivity rates, both over a seven-day average, to move up the ladder of tiers.
But even with the positive trends, the earliest Orange County's schools can reopen for personal instruction is Sept. 22. County officials had argued for credit for time spent off the state's coronavirus watch list before the state switched to the tier system, changing the way it evaluated progress against curbing the spread of coronavirus.
However, county officials were told the state did not want to establish a precedent.
"We were quite frustrated ... we weren't able to open schools Sept. 8 because we met the (state's) criteria," Orange County CEO Frank Kim told reporters at the county's news conference on COVID-19 earlier this week.
"We would have liked to have been provided credit for those days where we were meeting" the state's criteria to get off the watch list, Kim said.
Of the deaths reported Saturday, two were skilled nursing facility residents, and four were residents of assisted living facilities.
Since the pandemic began, COVID-19 has claimed the lives of 393 skilled nursing facility residents and 74 assisted living facility residents.