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Orange County Reports New Record in COVID-19 Hospitalizations; 500 Patients in ICUs

Orange County Monday set a new record for hospitalized COVID-19 patients with 2,178, including 500 in intensive care, just one shy of the record set on Saturday, along with 25 additional coronavirus deaths.

The county also reported 8,990 new cases, a number that includes data from Sunday, bringing the cumulative case count to 170,579.

Of the fatalities reported Monday, which bring the death toll to 1,926, eight were skilled nursing facility residents and three lived in assisted living facilities. Last week, the county reported 56 COVID-19 fatalities, down from 85 the week before.

On Saturday, there were 2,097 hospitalized coronavirus patients, down from the record of 2,128 set on Thursday.

The Orange County Health Care Agency, which did not release updated COVID-19 numbers Sunday due to scheduled maintenance involving the California Department of Public Health, reported 33,817 tests Monday, increasing the cumulative number to 2,110,313.

The county’s state-adjusted ICU bed availability remains at zero, and the unadjusted figure dropped from 7.5% to 6%. The state created the adjusted metric to reflect the difference in beds available for COVID-19 patients and non-coronavirus patients.

The Southern California region is at zero ICU capacity.

The county’s availability of ventilators dropped from 39% Saturday to 33% Monday.

All of the county’s metrics continue to remain within the state’s most-restrictive, purple tier of the four-tier coronavirus monitoring system.

Orange County’s adjusted daily case rate per 100,000 — released on Tuesdays — increased to 53.5 last week from 51.8 the previous week. The positivity rate rose from 15.2% to 16.9%.

The county’s Health Equity Quartile Positivity Rate, which measures the cases in highly affected, needier parts of the county, rose from 22.7% last week to 24.2%.

Orange County CEO Frank Kim said last week there was hope of a cresting of the Thanksgiving wave, thanks to recently declining testing positivity rate. But that rate actually rose slightly on Thursday to 16.9%, up from 16.5% Wednesday.

Health officials are bracing for a post-Christmas surge, followed by a potential New Year’s wave. Experts say it takes five to 10 days for a surge to take shape.

UC Irvine Medical Center last week activated its mobile field hospital with 40 additional beds.

Outbreaks at the county’s skilled nursing facilities and elderly assisted living facilities — defined as two or more cases within 14 days — are an ongoing problem for the county.

The county has seen 42 outbreaks — defined as two or more cases within the last 14 days — at skilled nursing facilities and at 64 elderly assisted living facilities.

The Orange County Jail’s recent outbreak continues to rise, with 1,097 inmates infected as of Monday as authorities await the results of 740 tests.

The outbreak has affected legal proceedings at the county’s courthouses, including the ongoing preliminary hearing in a murder conspiracy case involving alleged Orange County Mexican Mafia chief Johnny Martinez, which was put on hold when a co-defendant tested positive for coronavirus. One of Martinez’s attorneys, Richard Herman, said Martinez has also tested positive for COVID-19.

On Monday, Orange County Superior Court Judge Robert Knox ordered a medical evaluation of the five defendants in the case to determine if they would be able to continue the preliminary hearing on Tuesday. If so, then they will be taken to court individually, Knox said.

Also on Monday, Orange County officials again suspended ambulance diversions, effective at 7 tonight.

“After allowing ambulance diversion… for more than a week, the previously described metrics that measure hospital capacity to receive ambulances from the field have again deteriorated,” according to a memo from the county’s Emergency Medical Services Director Dr. Carl Schultz.

As of Sunday, 90%  of paramedics were averaging 62 minutes of waiting at hospitals to drop off patients, according to the memo.

Transportation Security Administration figures for security screenings nationally reflect more traveling over Christmas than Thanksgiving. On the day before Christmas Eve, nearly 1.2 million screenings were done at U.S. airports, compared with 1.9 million on the same date in 2019.

But preliminary data indicate that traffic at Orange County’s John Wayne Airport was down during Christmas compared with Thanksgiving.

From Nov. 24-30, 64,947 passengers passed through the Orange County airport for a daily average of 9,278. From Dec. 20-26, 60,193 passengers went through the airport for an average of 8,599 a day.


Source: NBC Los Angeles

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