Orange County reported 118 new cases of COVID-19 and 26 additional deaths Saturday.
The county's hospitalizations for COVID-19 -- a key metric officials are eyeing in this phase of the pandemic -- dropped under 200 again, falling from 206 Friday to 197, with the number of COVID patients in intensive care declining from 44 to 43, the Orange County Health Care Agency reported.
Hospitalizations had dipped below 200 on Wednesday before inching back up the following day.
The test positivity rate as of Saturday was at 2.2% and 3.5% in the so-called health equity category that measures the underprivileged neighborhoods hardest hit during the pandemic.
The OCHCA also reported 13,852 COVID-19 tests Saturday, raising the cumulative total to 3,241,401. There have been 240,831 documented recoveries.
The county had 33.2% of its ICU beds available, and 69% of its ventilators.
The case rate was 4 per 100,000 residents. But that does not automatically propel the county into the orange tier of the state's economic re-opening system. That will not happen until April 7 at the earliest if the current trends continue.
Orange County CEO Frank Kim said the county could make it to the orange tier sooner if the state authorizes it, as it did when officials moved up the county's graduation into the red tier. Supervisor Lisa Bartlett said it could hinge on whether the state makes its goal of 4 million inoculations in the underprivileged communities by the beginning of April.
The county is doing 312.9 tests per 100,000 on a seven-day average with a seven-day lag.
The county's testing average mirrors the state average, Kim said.
The latest weekly update from the state, issued on Tuesday, showed the county's test positivity rate improved to 2.2% from 3.2% from the previous Tuesday, and the adjusted case rate per 100,000 people on a seven-day average with a seven-day lag improved from 6 to 4.
The county's Health Equity Quartile rate, which measures positivity in hotspots in disadvantaged communities, improved from 4.1% the previous week to 3.5%.
That puts the county just one-tenth of a point away from meeting the threshold for the orange tier for case rate. If the trend continues, the county could move up to the orange tier by April 7, three days after Easter.
County supervisors on Tuesday will consider whether to approve a memorandum of understanding with the state or Blue Shield on vaccine distribution. Kim said the county is inclined to go with Blue Shield because it will be easier to transition its Othena app to the insurance company's data-collection system.
About 300 people received their first dose of the Moderna vaccine Saturday at a mobile vaccination site at the Second Baptist Church in Santa Ana, said Molly Nichelson, Orange County public information officer.