Orange County has been added to a watch list of counties with concerning coronavirus trends in California that could mean renewed lockdown orders, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday.
That list already included Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties.
Orange County officials reported 146 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 and three additional deaths Sunday, bringing the county's totals to 12,608 cases and 326 fatalities.
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The update came one day after the OC Health Care Agency reported a single-day record of newly confirmed cases, announcing 540 cases on Saturday.
Last week was the county's highest weekly death toll -- 56 -- since the pandemic began, marking its third straight record-setting week.
The number of hospitalized patients rose from 467 on Saturday to 492 on Sunday, but the number of patients in intensive care decreased from 179 to 170. The county has performed 217,255 tests, with 6,988 documented recoveries.
Orange County was not included in the list of seven counties that were ordered to close bars Sunday by Gov. Gavin Newsom, nor was it among the eight counties that were urged, but not ordered, to close bars to prevent further spread of the virus.
However, the county has exceeded two important metrics that will trigger more scrutiny from the California Department of Public Health. The county's rate of positive tests for COVID-19 rose again, from 8.9% to 9.2%, exceeding the state standard of 8%. The county's case rate of 108.9 per 100,000 people is also higher than the state's threshold of 25 per 100,000.
Last week, the county reported 50 coronavirus fatalities, and 41 the week before. Of the county's 323 COVID-19 deaths, 170 were residents of nursing homes and three were transients.
The county, however, is in good shape when it comes to hospital bed capacity and ventilators, according to the HCA.
The county has 39.7% intensive care unit beds available, higher than the state threshold of 20%, and the county has 67.3% ventilators available, higher than the state threshold of 25%, according to the agency.
County officials had a meeting with city leaders Friday and discussed ways they can promote more social distancing techniques, such as mask wearing, to help slow the spread of the virus, Orange County CEO Frank Kim told City News Service.
Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett, the president of the California State Association of Counties, said state officials may consider rolling back access to the beaches as a way to stem the spread of coronavirus.
"The governor is looking at positivity rates for the counties and hospital rates statewide are up 30%, so the governor is very concerned," Bartlett said.
State public health officials have been monitoring beach activity recently, Bartlett said.
"We're hearing through the grapevine something may be under consideration" regarding beach access along the coast statewide, Bartlett said.
Orange County congressional representatives on Friday sent a letter to county officials critical of how many tests have been administered to residents compared with other counties.
The letter was signed by Reps. Mike Levin, D-Dana Point, Gil Cisneros, D-Fullerton, Katie Porter, D-Irvine, Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, and Linda Sanchez, D-Norwalk.
The congressional representatives, who met with county officials after requesting more information about the county's testing programs last month, say some residents continue to face obstacles to getting a test.
"Fast, accessible and widespread testing is critical to protecting public health and preventing a resurgence as we continue to reopen," the letter reads.
"Ensuring accessible testing will not only reassure the public on behalf of businesses seeking to reopen, but will also support the contact tracing needed to control future outbreaks."
Bartlett said anyone in Orange County can get a test regardless of their ability to pay.
"We have 15 state testing locations within Orange County and multiple drive-through locations in hospitals and clinics, so virtually anyone who wants to be tested can get tested,'' Bartlett said.
Bartlett said it is not fair to compare Orange County's testing rates with other counties.
"Every county is unique relative to COVID-19,'' Bartlett said. "In other counties they have a different demographic. For instance, Imperial County has a high agricultural demographic and their healthcare system is overwhelmed."
Orange County has relatively fewer transients and a healthier demographic than many other counties, Bartlett said.