ORANGE COUNTY, CA — On Tuesday, Orange County reported 255 new cases of coronavirus and seven additional deaths bringing the county's totals to 58,980 cases and 1,454 people have died of COVID-19.
The relatively high number of daily cases continues to jeopardize the county's chance to move into a less-restrictive tier of the state's reopening road-map. The daily average would have to come down to about 130 for Orange County to move from the red to the orange tier, according to county officials, allowing for more businesses to reopen and for some already open to increase their capacity.
If the trend continues the county could face a slip back into the most restrictive purple tier.
"I hope not, but I guess it depends on the day of the week those cases are related to," Orange County CEO Frank Kim said of the coronavirus cases reported Tuesday. "It could be over the last two weeks. If that's the case it's not as bad, but the trend is not positive."
Kim said the rise in cases is a "similar trend to what we're seeing in Southern California," so if cases rise elsewhere in the Southland it is likely inevitable they will also rise in Orange County.
"The concern most people have is we're heading into the holiday season and we're worried that with the continued rise in cases we could end up in another crisis with hospitalization challenges, but I guess the good news so far is we haven't seen the case counts impact the hospitalizations, so that is the best news so far."
The number of hospitalizations related to the virus declined from 162 Monday to 157, with the number of intensive care unit patients dropping from 59 to 56, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency.
The change in the three-day average of hospitalized patients went from -6.5% to -4.1%. The county has 35% of its intensive care unit beds and 70% of its ventilators available.
According to OCHCA data, 1,075,250 COVID-19 tests have been conducted since the start of the pandemic, including 8,402 reported Tuesday. There have been 52,643 documented recoveries.
The county's positivity rate, which is reported each Tuesday, has remained at 3.2% for the last three weeks, but the daily case rate per 100,000 population increased from 4.6 last week to 5.1.
That leaves the county still close to moving up from the red to the orange tier in the state's four-tier monitoring system.
The county's Health Equity Quartile Positivity Rate, which is a mandate to focus on hot spots in counties, stands at 6%. The county has to reach at least 5.2% in that metric to move up to the orange tier.
Across Orange County, the city-based coronavirus counts for Tuesday are as follows:
Aliso Viejo - 424 Total Cases
Anaheim - 10091 Total Cases
Brea - 557 Total Cases
Buena Park - 1692 Total Cases
Costa Mesa - 2009 Total Cases
Coto de Caza - 52 Total Cases
Cypress - 604 Total Cases
Dana Point - 310 Total Cases
Fountain Valley - 565 Total Cases
Fullerton - 2829 Total Cases
Garden Grove - 3231 Total Cases
Huntington Beach - 2581 Total Cases
Irvine - 1865 Total Cases
La Habra - 1613 Total Cases
La Palma - 171 Total Cases
Ladera Ranch - 186 Total Cases
Laguna Beach - 248 Total Cases
Laguna Hills - 346 Total Cases
Laguna Niguel - 498 Total Cases
Laguna Woods - 70 Total Cases
Lake Forest - 913 Total Cases
Los Alamitos - 227 Total Cases
Midway City - 132 Total Cases
Mission Viejo - 951 Total Cases
Newport Beach - 1228 Total Cases
Orange - 2741 Total Cases
Placentia - 1036 Total Cases
Rancho Mission Viejo - 77 Total Cases
Rancho Santa Margarita - 387 Total Cases
Rossmoor - 71 Total Cases
San Clemente - 601 Total Cases
San Juan Capistrano - 634 Total Cases
Santa Ana - 11392 Total Cases
Seal Beach - 298 Total Cases
Silverado - 43 Total Cases
Stanton - 719 Total Cases
Trabuco Canyon - 218 Total Cases
Tustin - 1437 Total Cases
Villa Park - 62 Total Cases
Westminster - 1150 Total Cases
Yorba Linda - 829 Total Cases
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.
Dr. Matthew Zahn, the medical director of the county's communicable disease control division, said at Thursday's weekly news conference on the county's response to the disease that while coronavirus is particularly risky for people with underlying health conditions and the elderly, "we have certainly seen significant illness and death in younger populations."
Also, young adults should also be aware that they "can spread (the virus) to other people, to loved ones around them, who are particularly at risk," Zahn said. "And they're at risk themselves. This is not the flu. This virus remains difficult and is a significant risk for any age group."
According to a memo Thursday from Dr. Clayton Chau, the director of the OCHCA and chief health officer for the county, efforts since this summer to tamp down the spread of COVID-19 in hot spots in Santa Ana and Anaheim have led to a 74.4% reduction in positivity rates -- from an average of 22.5% July 7 to 5.8% as of Oct. 19.
Dr. Margaret Bredehoft, deputy agency director of public health services, announced a new program by the county and the Orange County Department of Education to staff a team of school nurses who will be available to parents evenings during the week and from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekends. The nurses will help with preparing parents to quarantine infected students and provide other guidance to school officials on disinfecting classrooms and other measures to curb spread of the virus.
Bredehoft also announced a campaign encouraging mask usage among students. Students in elementary through high school grades are being encouraged to participate in a contest of essays, videos or art promoting face coverings to curb the spread of coronavirus to help win technology grants for their school.
Dr. Philip Robinson, medical director of infection prevention and hospital epidemiology at Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian, told City News Service that experts expect another wave of coronavirus this fall.
Zahn agreed that there is potential for another wave because colder temperatures drive more people indoors, where the virus can be spread more efficiently. The annual flu season can compound it, he said.
City News Service, Patch Editor Ashley Ludwig contributed to this report.