ORANGE COUNTY, CA — A total of 13 more people died in Orange County as a result of COVID-19 it was reported Thursday, raising the cumulative death toll to 1,731. Meanwhile, another 2,615 people have been infected with coronavirus, Orange County Health Care reports. The county's adjusted intensive care unit bed availability remains at zero as it continues its streak of daily records for hospitalizations with 1,519 patients. Of those, 343 are being cared for in the county's packed ICU beds.
Like a broken record, in a drill we've all heard for months, mask-wearing politicians plead from the dais for the public to do the right thing: wear masks around non-family members & stay away from large groups.
Now, more than ever, the time to do exactly that is at hand. There is no more room for the sickest coronavirus patients, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency. Emergency rooms are full and lack triage capacity, according to Dr. Clayton Chau, the county health officer.
The coronavirus has reached the worst case scenario in Orange County, and the fallout has landed on Dr. Chau's doorstep.
Chau took over as County Health Officer following Dr. Nichole Quick's resignation earlier in the year. Quick was repeatedly threatened, picketed against, and made fearful for her family for making the same suggestions the OC Board of Supervisors and OC Health Care Agency now clamor for regularly: asking people to wear their masks.
Months later, dire predictions made early in the pandemic by infectious disease experts are starting to come true. To support the local health care system as case rates surge, the OC Health Care Agency announced the deployment of mobile field hospitals.
Emergency rooms have no capacity to triage people as quickly as they can, according to Chau in a recent Orange County Board of Supervisors meeting.
“We have people who are waiting to be seen when they get to the emergency room," Chau says.
There is no more rerouting of ambulances to other hospitals, according to a directive of Dr. Charles Shultz of the OC Emergency Medical Services. Schultz called for a suspension of ambulance diversion as of Wednesday.
In a statement, Schultz said that "due to overwhelming numbers of patients presenting to the emergency departments for care across the county, almost all hospitals were going on diversion," where they relocate patients if an emergency room is full. That had to stop, he says. "If nothing was done, ambulances would soon run out of hospitals to take their patients. Therefore, we temporarily suspended ambulance diversion."
Schultz also demanded that patients 29-years-old and younger no longer be transported to Children's' Hospital OC until at least the weekend. He cited "extraordinary times" for implementing the measure.
At Mission Viejo Hospital in Mission Viejo, Dr. Jim Keany spoke with Voice of OC regarding the hospital overrun trends. He hasn't seen anything like this in his 30 years as a physician, he told them.
“From all indications the way things are headed now, there’s no question that the medical systems in our area will be overwhelmed,” he said in a Wednesday phone interview. “In a matter of weeks.”
The situation goes beyond just Orange County. According to a report from the California Department of Public Health, the 11 county Southern California region is at 0 percent for ICU capacity.
“This sounds alarming because it is alarming,” Dr. Chau said. “I implore our residents not to gather with other households and limit upcoming holiday celebrations to those you live with.”
This week saw some good news in the arrival of 25,350 doses of the Pfizer-manufactured COVID-19 vaccine, which was distributed to area hospitals for frontline medical workers. Vaccines are expected to be available to the general public sometime in the spring of 2021.
In the meantime, the HCA strongly advises OC residents to adhere to the following guidance:
Wear a mask around anyone you don’t live with.
Do not gather with other households.
It is safest to celebrate the holidays with the people who already live with you.
Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use hand sanitizer.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
Stay home if you are sick, and call your primary care provider or urgent care.
Make certain you don’t run out of any routine, prescription medication by staying in touch with your primary care provider.
“I want to remind the community that in a health emergency, do not hesitate to call 9-1-1,” Dr. Chau said. “Our hospital system remains ready and equipped to care for you and is the safest place to be if you require immediate medical attention. And it’s up to our residents to ensure it stays that way into the new year by acting responsibly.”
In Orange County, the most recent city infection counts are as follows:
Aliso Viejo - 898 Total Cases
Anaheim - 19262 Total Cases
Brea - 1261 Total Cases
Buena Park - 3327 Total Cases
Costa Mesa - 3730 Total Cases
Coto de Caza - 92 Total Cases
Cypress - 1222 Total Cases
Dana Point - 626 Total Cases
Fountain Valley - 1413 Total Cases
Fullerton - 5343 Total Cases
Garden Grove - 6989 Total Cases
Huntington Beach - 4622 Total Cases
Irvine - 4149 Total Cases
La Habra - 2992 Total Cases
La Palma - 345 Total Cases
Ladera Ranch - 391 Total Cases
Laguna Beach - 409 Total Cases
Laguna Hills - 681 Total Cases
Laguna Niguel - 1033 Total Cases
Laguna Woods - 155 Total Cases
Lake Forest - 1784 Total Cases
Los Alamitos - 456 Total Cases
Midway City - 313 Total Cases
Mission Viejo - 1872 Total Cases
Newport Beach - 1803 Total Cases
Orange - 5450 Total Cases
Placentia - 2018 Total Cases
Rancho Mission Viejo - 140 Total Cases
Rancho Santa Margarita - 720 Total Cases
Rossmoor - 87 Total Cases
San Clemente - 1261 Total Cases
San Juan Capistrano - 1194 Total Cases
Santa Ana - 22570 Total Cases
Seal Beach - 530 Total Cases
Silverado - 55 Total Cases
Stanton - 1428 Total Cases
Trabuco Canyon - 395 Total Cases
Tustin - 2692 Total Cases
Villa Park - 130 Total Cases
Westminster - 2887 Total Cases
Yorba Linda - 1754 Total Cases