Orange County's recent coronavirus spike continued Friday as health officials reported 158 new infections and four additional fatalities — raising the total number of cases to 4,125 and the death toll to 84.
The latest update continued a multiday trend that has seen the county's caseload grow significantly, even as officials move forward with lifting coronavirus-related restrictions and allowing more businesses to reopen.
For three consecutive days, the county has reported at least 156 new COVID-19 cases. It had previously hit that number only once since the outbreak began, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency.
Since Wednesday, the county has confirmed 543 new cases — including a single-day high of 229 on Thursday.
The cases added in just the past three days account for roughly 13.2% of the county's cumulative count of 4,125.
Officials have cited several possible explanations for the sudden rise in cases.
One reason, officials say, is that more people are becoming infected in nursing homes and jails, settings that allow rapid spread.
“Most is due to a volume of cases identified in nursing homes and jails in the past two weeks,” county Health Care Agency Director Clayton Chau said about the recent surge. “The congregate care population accounts for a fair proportion.”
Of those who have tested positive for COVID-19, 430 have been residents of skilled nursing facilities and 335 have been Orange County jail inmates.
Nursing home residents also account for one-fourth of the county's coronavirus-linked fatalities. No deaths have been reported among jail inmates so far.
“The infection rate within those congregate living environments has hit Orange County in a delayed manner, compared to some of our large urban peers, but it is here now in Orange County and we have to step up the amount of testing and protocols for cleaning,” said County Executive Officer Frank Kim.
Those populations also account for many of those who are hospitalized with COVID-19, officials said.
As of the latest update, 212 people were hospitalized countywide, including 78 who were in intensive care. Both those numbers were down from the prior two days.
Officials say another factor is testing. Logically, the more you screen, the more cases you will uncover.
However, although Orange County dramatically ramped up its testing efforts starting in late April, the past few days have seen fewer test results reported than during the same time last week, according to available data.
Still, County Health Officer Dr. Nichole Quick said Monday that the percentage of people who test positive “has remained relatively stable and, overall, has been decreasing, which is good.”
Times staff writer Colleen Shalby contributed to this report.