COVID Orange County update: Death toll nears 700, hospitalization numbers decline

Get updates on the coronavirus in Orange County including new case numbers, response efforts and latest news.
SANTA ANA, Calif. (KABC) -- The Orange County Health Care Agency reported 32 COVID-19 fatalities on Thursday, raising the coronavirus death toll to 697, but the number of hospitalizations edged down.

Of Thursday's death toll, five were skilled nursing facility residents, three were assisted living facility residents and one was homeless.

Since the pandemic began, 279 skilled nursing facility residents have died of COVID-19 in Orange County and 33 assisted living facility residents have succumbed to the virus.

Forty-eight fatalities have been reported since Sunday. The county logged 87 coronavirus deaths last week and 70 the week prior.

The number of patients being treated for COVID-19 in county hospitals dropped from 536 Wednesday to 517, while the number of patients in intensive care dipped from 172 to 171, according to the HCA.

The county also reported 580 more diagnoses of coronavirus, raising the cumulative total to 38,711.

The agency on Wednesday reported 65 new diagnoses of coronavirus. But the low number was attributed to the state's recent glitch in reporting of positive tests from laboratories, said Orange County CEO Frank Kim.

Hospitalization statistics are more reliable because the hospitals use a different online software platform to report to the state, Kim noted. State officials have directed laboratories to send manual copies of test results as a backup until the software glitch is corrected, he said.

Orange County is on the state's watch list for counties experiencing high rates of new cases and hospitalizations. It has shown some improvement of late, with the rate of residents testing positive for COVID-19 dipping from 8.1% to 8%, which is the state's desired rate of 8%.

But its case rate per 100,000 residents inched up from 97.6 Wednesday to 97.9, which is far higher than the California Department of Public Health threshold of 25 per 100,000 residents.

The change in the three-day average of hospitalized patients went from -3.7% to -3.8%, much lower than the state's threshold of 10% increase.

Available ICU beds are at 36%, and the percentage of available ventilators at 56%. The state's threshold is 20% of ICU beds available to handle a surge and 25% ventilators on hand.

The county reported that 448,087 COVID-19 tests have been conducted, including 3,330 logged on Thursday. There have been 28,109 documented recoveries.

As local school officials prepare for classes to begin again, county officials are tabulating the number of coronavirus cases by various age groups.

Since the pandemic began, there have been 365 children up to age 3 who have been infected in the county; 466 in the 4-to-9-year-old age group; 365 from 10 to 12 years old; 344 among 13 to 14-year-olds; and 1,262 in the 15-to-18-year-old age group.

The state has released updated guidance for youth sports activities, allowing activities to resume, but with participants adhering to physical distancing and safety protocols. Participants must stay six feet from each other and activities must take place outdoors as much as possible.

Tournaments, events and games indoors that require close contact among participants are not allowed.

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City News Service contributed to this report.
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