SANTA ANA, CA — Orange County reported 806 new cases of COVID-19 and 11 additional deaths Saturday, bringing the county's totals to 69,142 cases and 1,551 fatalities. These numbers were reported just one day after the county recorded its highest one-day total of new COVID-19 cases.
On Friday the 1,169 cases recorded beat the county's previous record high on July 6, when 1,050 positive cases of coronavirus were reported, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency.
The number of county residents hospitalized with the coronavirus elevated from 333 Friday to 365 Saturday, but the number of people in the intensive care unit dropped from 102 to 88.
Two of the 11 deaths reported Saturday were residents of assisted-living facilities, and two were residents of skilled-nursing facilities.
The change in the three-day average of hospitalized patients jumped from 20.7 percent to 54.1 percent. The county has 30 percent of its intensive care unit beds and 66 percent of its ventilators available, as county officials remained confident local hospitals can handle the surge.
"Right now we still have significant bed staffing in Orange County," said Supervisor Lisa Bartlett, who is president of the California State Association of Counties. "But we need to keep track as COVID cases rise and how many get hospitalized. We want to be sure our health care system doesn't get overwhelmed."
The county's intensive care units have not seen a sharp rise in patients, which could be owed to "better therapeutics" as doctors get more efficient at treating the virus, Bartlett added.
More than 1,327,852 tests have been conducted in Orange County, including 13,213 reported Saturday. There have been 57,723 recoveries documented so far.
Orange County, which resides in the purple or widespread tier and most of California will fall under a state-mandated curfew Saturday night that will prohibit nonessential activities, gatherings and business operations starting at 10 p.m. nightly.
The order announced by Gov. Gavin Newsom's office Thursday applies to all counties in the most- restrictive purple tier of the state's four-tier coronavirus monitoring system, including Orange County. It takes effect at 10 p.m. Saturday and remains in force nightly until 5 a.m. on Dec. 21.
But whether local authorities will do anything to enforce the order remains unclear.
Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes told City News Service that he has a lot of issues with the stay-at-home order because he believes the resources to enforce it are limited and could lead to civil rights challenges.
Barnes asked: even if deputies issued tickets for a misdemeanor violation for ignoring a state health order, what happens if the person cited refuses to accept it?
"How far do we go?" he asked. "Is the public comfortable (that) we're going to potentially arrest you and with force if necessary if a public health order is violated?"
To compound matters, the courts are not holding hearings on misdemeanors, according to Barns.
"I think we've gotten significant compliance in the county of Orange. Most people are following the guidelines of public health orders," Barnes said. "The few who aren't are few and far between."
At least two groups planned a protest against the curfew for 10:01 p.m. Saturday at the Huntington Beach Pier and in San Clemente.
Huntington Beach police said they were preparing for potential curfew defiers as a planned demonstration was set to take place at the city's pier Saturday. Demonstrators were expected to protest the statewide curfew that goes into effect Saturday evening at 10 p.m.
"We are aware. I believe our command staff is putting together a plan to address that," a communications operator with the Huntington Beach Police Department told City News Service on Saturday.
A second "curfew breaker" demonstration was also planned for San Clemente, according to FoxLA's Bill Melugin.
A flier for the tweet, posted by Melugin, read: "If you are a free American and are more than nonessential join us for a clear act of defiance against Newsoms 10 pm stay at home order."
Orange County was moved into the purple tier on Monday, along with 27 other counties, amid a statewide surge in coronavirus infections and hospitalizations. The move left 41 of the state's 58 counties — 94.1 percent of the state's population — in the most-restrictive tier.
"The virus is spreading at a pace we haven't seen since the start of this pandemic and the next several days and weeks will be critical to stop the surge," Newsom said in a statement Thursday. "We are sounding the alarm. It is crucial that we act to decrease transmission and slow hospitalizations before the death count surges. We've done it before and we must do it again."
Counties in the tier are prohibited from allowing indoor service at restaurants and movie theaters, gyms and fitness centers.
—The City News Service contributed to this report.
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