Officials report 140 new COVID-19 cases, 4 more deaths as hospitalizations continue to decrease

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The Orange County Health Care Agency on Thursday reported four additional COVID-19 fatalities and 140 newly diagnosed infections, raising the death toll to 1,115 and the cumulative caseload to 51,399 since the coronavirus pandemic began.

The HCA has reported 22 deaths since Sunday. Last week, the OCHCA reported 42 COVID-19 fatalities. The week before saw 76 deaths reported.

Three of the fatalities reported Thursday were skilled nursing facility residents and one lived in assisted living facility. Since the pandemic began, 421 skilled nursing facility residents and 76 assisted living facility residents have succumbed to the coronavirus.

Hospitalizations in the county dipped from 202 Wednesday to 198 Thursday, with patients in intensive care dropping from 67 to 64.

The county's daily case count per 100,000 people fell from 5.2 last week to 4.7, and the seven-day rate of residents testing positive for the coronavirus dropped from 4.2% last week to 3.9%.

To move up from the red tier to the orange tier in the state's four-tier monitoring system, the county must have a daily new case rate per 100,000 of 1 to 3.9 and a positivity rate of 2 to 4.9%.

The county has 37% of its intensive care unit beds available and 64% of its ventilators available. The change in the 3-day average for hospitalized patients stands at -0.5%.

The OCHCA reported that 765,382 COVID-19 tests have been conducted, including 9,601 reported Thursday. There have been 46,153 documented recoveries.

All schools will be allowed to reopen for in-class instruction by Tuesday, OCHCA Director Dr. Clayton Chau told the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday. So far, the county has approved 140 elementary schools to reopen through the state's waiver process, Chau said.

The supervisors also approved a plan to set up drive-thru flu vaccine clinics in each of the county's five districts to help stave off a potential twindemic'' of the flu and COVID-19 this fall, along with a plan to expand testing to reach residents who are of Asian-Pacific Islander, Middle Eastern and North African heritage.

The Latino community remains the highest hot spot in the county, but the next highest is the API community as well as Middle Eastern and North African,'' Supervisor Andrew Do said. This shows the board is very proactive in trying to address potential hot spots.''

On Monday's six-month anniversary of the shutdown of large venues such as theme parks, Anaheim officials appealed publicly to the state for some kind of guidance on the reopening of Disneyland so they can better prepare. The state shutdown order of March 14 also affected the Anaheim Convention Center, the Honda Center and Angel Stadium.

Anaheim officials need guidance on theme parks to reopen safely and responsibly when it is right,'' city spokesman Mike Lyster said. We actually need a roadmap for recovery.''

Gov. Gavin Newsom said Wednesday that the state plans to make announcements soon'' relating to reopening guidelines for theme parks.

I'm not here today to make that presentation, but want folks to know we are actively working in a number of sectors and will be making public the fruits of those negotiations and those efforts very, very shortly,'' Newsom said.

Buena Park Mayor Fred Smith, Garden Grove Mayor Steve Jones and Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu held a news conference Wednesday to invite the governor to Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm to judge for himself if the theme parks are ready to open. They appealed to the governor to give them more insight when the parks can reopen.

Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett, president of the California State Association of Counties, toured Downtown Disney on Wednesday with Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa.

I was extremely impressed with the level of protocols in place from temperature checks to face coverings, to the restriction of the number of persons in the stores and restaurants,'' Bartlett said. They're being very, very diligent in Downtown Disney to ensure everyone's respective health and safety whether it be the cast members or the public. They're doing a great job to keep the public safe and to keep the cast members safe.''

Bartlett said Disneyland was ready to reopen and should be allowed to reopen at this point.''

Bartlett said she believes state officials are considering theme parks like large convention centers or concert halls, but the main difference is most of the entertainment at the theme parks is outdoors, where experts say the virus does not spread as easily as it does indoors.

Bartlett said she is part of a kitchen cabinet'' of CSAC officials recently assembled and she plans to lobby state officials to reconsider the category theme parks fall into.

Orange County was upgraded from the most restrictive purple tier to the red tier in California's coronavirus monitoring system last week. The move allowed for churches, theaters and other businesses to resume indoor operations, but with strict limits on capacity and other health measures in place.

Theaters, restaurants and churches are restricted to 25% capacity or 100 people, whichever is less. Museums, zoos and aquariums also were allowed to reopen indoor activities at 25% capacity. Shopping centers were given the green light to expand from 25% capacity to half-capacity under the red tier, while gyms were allowed to reopen at 10% capacity.

City News Service contributed to this report.

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