Orange County officials have expressed concerns about an intensifying spread of COVID-19 in recent weeks, largely due to the introduction of the highly contagious Delta variant to the United States.
As of Thursday, the county reported 497 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, the highest number in six months. That number is still well below peak hospitalizations during the 2020 winter surge, however, when over 2,200 people were admitted to O.C. hospitals with the virus.
The number of people with COVID-19 in intensive care units has risen to 126, and the county has also reported 465 new diagnoses on Thursday.
Dr. Andrew Noymer, an epidemiologist with UC Irvine's Department of Public Health, told KNX that hospitalization numbers provide much better insight into the impact of the Delta variant than diagnosed cases.
"Hospitalizations are where the rubber meets the road," Noymer said. Noting that Thursday's 497 COVID-19 related admissions in Orange County is a more stable number than those of recent days, he added, "That's higher than I'd like to see, but like most of California, we seem to be plateauing."
Noymer also predicted a lower death rate coming out of the spike in cases connected with the Delta variant.
"That's because of vaccinations," he said. Breakthrough cases—where people contract COVID-19 despite being vaccinated—can happen, he cautioned, but "these cases are mild. These cases do not wind up on ventilators and in the cemetery," he said.