ORANGE COUNTY, CA — Orange County case counts are trending back in a positive direction, according to officials who remain hopeful at reopening more schools and businesses soon. On Monday, OC Health Care Agency reported 117 newly diagnosed COVID-19 cases, raising the cumulative total to 55,892, but no deaths were reported, leaving the Orange County coronavirus death toll unchanged at 1,341.
Orange County CEO Frank Kim has said that the county wants to see daily diagnoses below 130. Monday’s case counts were welcome news after Sunday’s report of 244 cases and one death.
To reach the less-restrictive orange tier established by the state, the county needs to average closer to 130 daily cases, Kim said.
Last week, 54 deaths were reported, down from 72 the week before and 77 the week before that.
Hospitalizations inched up from 164 on Sunday to 167 on Monday, while the number of intensive care unit patients dipped from 57 to 56.
The change in the three-day average of hospitalized patients went from -4.1% to -5.8%. The county has 31% of its intensive care unit beds and 67% of its ventilators available.
The positivity rate, which is reported each Tuesday, inched up from 3.1% two weeks ago to 3.2% last week, and the daily case rate per 100,000 people rose from 4.4 to 5.2, which is higher than the cutoff of 3.9 to qualify for a move from the red to the orange tier.
Kim told CNS on Friday that the county is averaging 4.9 cases per 100,000 residents, down from a peak of 5.4 on Oct. 5.
“Our numbers are heading in the right direction,” he said.
To qualify for the orange tier, the positivity rate must be 2% to 4%, and the case rate per 100,000 must be 1% to 3.9%.
Moving to the orange tier would mean retail businesses could operate at full capacity, instead of 50% as required in the red tier. Shopping malls could also operate at full capacity, but with closed common areas and reduced food courts, just as in the red tier.
According to OCHCA data, 948,671 COVID-19 tests have been conducted, including 4,504 reported Monday. There have been 49,947 documented recoveries.
Dr. Clayton Chau, director of the OCHCA and the county’s chief health officer, said increased testing can lower the positivity rate, but it can also lead to an increase in the case rate per 100,000. The state introduced a health equity measure, which launched last Tuesday, to help counties address high case counts concentrated within certain ZIP codes that include high-density housing and language barriers, among other issues.
Orange County got a head start on that weeks ago with its Latino Health Equity program, which raised awareness of coronavirus within hotspots in Santa Ana and Anaheim, Chau said.
Positivity rates as high as 20% have fallen to single digits in some of those neighborhoods, Chau said.
There is an “accelerator” in the state’s formula that if the positivity rate makes it to the least-restrictive