Orange County reported 493 new cases of COVID-19 and 14 more deaths Saturday, bringing the county's totals to 45,801 cases and 896 fatalities.
The data on hospitalizations continued to move in the right direction, with 392 people hospitalized as of Saturday and 110 of those in intensive care. Those numbers were 397 and 117 on Friday, and 400 and 118 on Thursday, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency.
The drop in hospitalizations and relative decline in new cases has led officials to anticipate coming off the state's watch list soon. But as of Saturday, Orange County was still one of 38 counties on the state's monitoring list.
If Orange County continues to meet state thresholds and is removed from the list, is would start the clock for all public schools in the county to reopen in early September.
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The rate of county residents testing positive for COVID-19 decreased from 5.5% to 5.4%, below the state's desired threshold of 8%. And the change in the three-day average of hospitalized patients went from -2.3% to -4.3%, which is lower than the state's threshold.
The county's case rate per 100,000 residents dropped from 95.6 to 92.9, which is still far higher than the California Department of Public Health threshold of 25 per 100,000 residents.
The county has 30.9% of intensive care unit beds available, which is better than the state's 20% threshold. And the county's hospitals have 58.7% of their ventilators available, well above the state standard of 25%.
The state mandates a county must be off the watch list for 15 days before all schools can reopen, Dr. Clayton Chau, the county's interim chief health officer and director of the OCHCA, said this week.
In the meantime, Orange County officials say 24 elementary schools have been approved to be reopened, including six in the Los Alamitos Unified School District.
For parents still leery of returning students to classrooms, Chau said the county "encourages'' them to continue online learning, "especially children who are at a higher risk.''
The county will provide tests for staff and students and a "full medical team" that includes pediatricians, while infectious disease experts from Children's Hospital of Orange County and UC Irvine ``will be standing by to assist when needed,'' Chau said.
Wednesday was the first day the county fell below the state's monitoring thresholds, Chau said.
It is possible various business sectors that are shut down for commerce indoors may be allowed to return to normal, Chau said. County officials are expecting "new guidance" from the state next week.
Of the deaths reported Saturday, five were skilled nursing facility residents and four lived in an assisted living facility. Since the pandemic began, 344 of the fatalities were skilled nursing facility residents and 54 were assisted living facility residents.
The OCHCA reported that 588,919 COVID-19 tests have been conducted, including 7,559 reported Saturday. There have been 37,241 documented recoveries.