SANTA ANA, Calif. (KABC) -- Health officials in Orange County confirmed its third COVID-related pediatric death.
According to an update issued by the OC Health Care Agency on Thursday, the child was younger than 5, though they did not say whether the child was a boy or a girl. Health officials also didn't say when the child died.
"We have lost another precious young life to this terrible virus; it is our third pediatric death in Orange County since the start of the pandemic," said HCA Director and County Health Officer Dr. Clayton Chau. "This is yet another somber reminder that we must continue to do everything we can to protect our loved ones, especially our little ones under 5 years of age who are not able to be vaccinated."
Meanwhile, hospitalizations have eclipsed the peak of the first wave in July 2020. As of Thursday, there were 724 people hospitalized with the virus in Orange County. The county says 87% of the people hospitalized are unvaccinated.
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"COVID-19 has been spreading very quickly. Cases are reaching levels that we haven't seen throughout this pandemic," said Dr. Regina Chinsio-Kwong, Deputy County Health Officer. "We strongly urge our county residents and visitors to please take all preventative measures to reduce your risk of getting sick or hospitalized. Even though breakthrough infections are possible, the most important thing you can do is get vaccinated and boosted to maximize your immunity to COVID-19 and reduce your chance of getting severely infected."
Health officials say between Dec. 30 and Jan. 5, the seven-day average COVID case rate in Orange County jumped from 25.5 to 67.5 per 100,000 people and the average number of daily cases rose from 822 to 2,179.
Earlier this week, the U.S. urged that everyone 12 and older get a COVID-19 booster as soon as they're eligible.
Boosters already were encouraged for all Americans 16 and older, but Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention endorsed an extra Pfizer shot for younger teens - those 12 to 15 - and strengthened its recommendation that 16- and 17-year-olds get it, too.
For more information on COVID in Orange County, including case counts, vaccination information and testing sites in the county, visit ochealthinfo.com/covid.