SANTA ANA (CNS) - Orange County health officials have reported another 17 COVID-19 fatalities, hiking the total to slightly over 600, along with 506 more coronavirus diagnoses to bring the cumulative case total to 35,778, but hospitalization numbers declined.
The number of patients being treated for COVID-19 in Orange County hospitals dropped from 626 to 592 Thursday while the number of patients in intensive care dropped from 204 to 189, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency.
Since Sunday, the county has reported 42 coronavirus-related deaths. Last week, the county reported 70 deaths, down from 73 the week before.
Three of Thursday's reported fatalities were skilled nursing facility residents and one was an assisted living facility resident. Of the total 604 deaths, 258 were skilled nursing facility residents, 22 lived in assisted living facilities, and one was homeless. Of the total cases, 1,653 were skilled nursing facility residents, 472 were jail inmates and 136 were homeless.
Orange County is on the state's watch list for counties experiencing high rates of new cases and hospitalizations. It has shown some improvement, but with some continuing concerns.
The county's case rate per 100,000 residents dropped from 153.2 Wednesday to 149.5, which is still far higher than the California Department of Public Health threshold of 25 per 100,000 residents. The rate of residents testing positive for COVID-19 increased from 11% to 11.7%, higher than the state's desired rate of 8%.
The change in the three-day average of hospitalized patients went from -4.8% Wednesday to -8.6%, much lower than the state's threshold of 10% increase.
Available ICU beds increased from 37% to 38%, but the percentage of ventilators available decreased from 65% to 57%. The state's threshold is 20% of ICU beds available to handle a surge and 25% ventilators on hand.
Dr. Clayton Chau, HCA director and interim chief health officer, said there have been “intermittent issues'' with the state's data system, so the number of tests conducted by the county was actually reduced in today's report by 1,337 because of duplicates.
County officials also unveiled a new public education campaign modeled after the “stop, drop and roll'' campaign used by fire departments. The county's “Face, Hands and Feet'' campaign emphasizes the importance of wearing a mask, washing hands and staying six feet apart from others.
Chau said the county has narrowed a field of nine candidates for the chief health officer down to five, who will be interviewed soon by the Board of Supervisors. The previous health officer resigned after getting threats about her mask order.