Orange County

Orange County COVID-19 Hospitalizations Jump by Nearly 100 Overnight, Continue to Set Records

The county reported 80 coronavirus-related deaths last week, up from 62 the week before and 41 and 26, respectively, in the two previous weeks. Since Sunday, the county has reported 19 deaths.

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Orange County added nearly 100 more COVID-19 patients to its already stressed hospital system with 10 more in intensive care as it continued its record-setting pace Tuesday.

Hospitalizations increased from 1,709 on Monday to 1,806 on Tuesday, including those in intensive care rising from 380 to 390.

The death toll increased by two to a total of 1,779 since the pandemic began. One of the fatalities was an assisted living facility resident.

The county reported 80 coronavirus-related deaths last week, up from 62 the week before and 41 and 26, respectively, in the two previous weeks. Since Sunday, the county has reported 19 deaths.

There were 2,233 new cases of the coronavirus diagnosed, raising the total to 130,414.

The county's ICU bed availability remains zero in the "adjusted" metric, but dropped from 10.2% Monday in the unadjusted category to 7.5%. The state created the adjusted metric to reflect the difference in beds available for COVID-19 patients and non-coronavirus patients.

Just because a county's adjusted ICU rate may be zero, it does not mean there are no beds available, Orange County CEO Frank Kim said. The difference in the rates reflects what is historically expected from non-coronavirus emergencies, he said.

County officials are encouraging anyone with a medical emergency to not refrain from dialing 911.

It was welcome news to receive a relatively lower number of coronavirus cases on Tuesday, but the hospitals continue to fill up, Kim said.

"The concern it's not slowing down and we haven't hit the peak yet,'' Kim said. "And health officers in other counties when they talk about Christmas they're scared about further acceleration because the current surge hasn't ended."

Although hospital officials may be preparing for the possibility of rationing care, "I'm not aware of any definitive decision made at any individual hospital,'' Kim said.

"Rationing health care is a really complex decision each hospital has to make based on staffing levels or capacity and it's not something a county would order,'' Kim said.

The county has three mobile field hospitals up now with 50 beds at UC Irvine Medical Center in Orange, 25 at Fountain Valley Regional Hospital and 25 at Los Alamitos Medical Center.

An earlier report of a mobile field hospital being provided to St. Joseph's Hospital in Orange was inaccurate, but the hospital has indicated the possibility it may need some soon.

The county has four more mobile field hospitals left that have 25 beds apiece, Kim said.

County officials are expecting the first doses of vaccines from Moderna on Wednesday, Kim said.

At the Fairview Developmental Center in Costa Mesa 21 patients with milder symptoms are being treated.

The county is doing OK on supplies of personal protective equipment, Kim said.

The state "is doing a very good job with PPE,'' Kim said. "When we make a request it arrives with a matter of days... the PPE is flowing.''

The county has also seen a rise in the take-home testing kits for coronavirus, Kim said. Last week, 17,000 kits were requested, compared with 19,000 showing up in person at the county's super sites.

Hospitals are bearing an unprecedented burden as the coronavirus crisis worsens in California. Hetty Chang reports for the NBC4 News at 11 p.m. on Tuesday Dec. 22, 2020.

"So we're almost replicating the supersites in terms of volume with the take-home kits, so it's been an outstanding success," Kim said.

A moratorium on diverting patients from one hospital to another initiated last week was extended again on Friday. Kim said it is being monitored daily to see if it can be lifted.

The county has 45% of its ventilators available.

Meanwhile, the outbreak in the county's jails continues to widen, with 908 infections currently, up from 834 on Monday. The county is awaiting the results of 293 tests.

On Friday, the first jailed inmate in Orange County with COVID-19 died of complications from the virus.

Outbreaks in the county's nursing homes continue to rise, with 42 skilled nursing facilities and 40 elderly assisted living facilities reporting two or more positive cases within the last two weeks.

The county recorded 29,144 tests on Tuesday, for a total of 1,885,047. The county is testing 606.1 per 100,000 on a seven-day average with a seven-day lag, up from 526.8 last week.

All of the county's metrics now fall within the state's most-restrictive, purple tier of the state's four-tier coronavirus monitoring system.

Orange County's adjusted daily case rate per 100,000 rose Tuesday to 51.8, up from  42.7 last week. The positivity rate increased from 13.2% to 15.2%.

The county's Health Equity Quartile Positivity Rate, which measures the cases in highly affected, needier parts of the county, rose from 18.8% last week to 22.7%.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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