OC reports 26 new COVID infections, 2 more deaths, hospitalization rates continue to fall

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SANTA ANA (CNS) - Orange County today reported 26 new COVID-19 infections and logged two more deaths as hospitalization rates continued to fall.

The new infections increased the cumulative case count to 255,530 since the start of the pandemic.

Hospitalizations dropped from 54 Tuesday to 50 Wednesday, and the number of intensive care unit patients remained at seven.

"We're bottoming out more than plateauing," said Andrew Noymer, a UC Irvine professor of population health and disease prevention. "We're doing well so I'm liking the numbers ... I don't see anything to say we shouldn't reopen."

Noymer does not expect any surge when the state lifts more restrictions next week.

"I have to doff my cap to (Gov. Gavin) Newsom and company," Noymer told City News Service. "When they announced a long time ago a June 15 reopening, it seemed so forward looking, but it's hard to argue with success. They gambled and they won."

The two additional fatalities increased the coronvirus death toll in Orange County to 5,090. One of the fatalities was in January, the deadliest month since the start of the pandemic, and the other was in December, the next deadliest.

The death toll so far for this month is one; 14 for May; 41 for April; 185 for March; 588 in February; 1,553 for January; and 960 for December.

The county's COVID-19 statistics have been "ticking up or down one- tenth of a point day-to-day so there are no significant changes," Orange County CEO Frank Kim told City News Service on Monday.

"It seems like we've hit a new plateau, which is good because it's a low plateau," he said.

When considering all residents eligible for inoculation, "we're in the 65% range" of those who have received at least one dose of vaccine, Kim said.

The county is now focusing on mobile vaccination sites, Kim said.

"We had 22 mobile PODs last week," he said.

At one shopping center in Irvine, the county had 200 appointments booked, and 160 showed up, Kim said. Another 80, however, arrived without an appointment and were inoculated, "so we did about 240 that day," he said.

Another 8,711 COVID-19 tests were reported Wednesday, bringing the county's total to 3,987,087.

The county's weekly average of tests per 100,000 dropped from 233.1 last week to 210.1.

According to weekly state data released every Tuesday, the average for the county's daily case rate per 100,000 residents dropped from 0.9 to 0.8. The overall test positivity rate ticked up from 0.6% to 0.7%, and the county's Health Equity Quartile rate, which measures positivity in hot spots in disadvantaged communities, inched up from 0.7% to 0.8%.

Those numbers guaranteed the county will remain in the least- restrictive yellow tier. Regardless, the state is getting ready to scrap its tier system for reopening the economy on June 15.

Orange County officially entered the least-restrictive yellow tier of the reopening blueprint on May 19, which allowed for greater attendance for many businesses such as movie theaters and gyms, while museums, zoos and aquariums were allowed to open at full capacity.

For the first time, bars and distilleries were able to open indoors, and theme parks such as Disneyland could expand attendance.