SANTA ANA, Calif. (CNS) -- Seven more COVID-19 deaths were reported Thursday in Orange County, a reflection of the more contagious Delta variant-fueled surge of infections.
The seven fatalities raised the cumulative since the pandemic began to 5,197. Two people died on Aug. 17, the most recent fatalities recorded, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency.
The death toll for this month has eclipsed last month's, marking the first time the county has seen a rise month-to-month since the winter surge.
Vaccinations have steeply driven down the death toll each month since records were set in December and January, but it now appears they are trending back up due to the Delta variant, which has led to a surge in hospitalizations.
One of the deaths this month included someone in the 25-to-34 age group, Andrew Noymer, an epidemiologist and UC Irvine professor of population health and disease prevention, told City News Service.
"There have been 60 deaths in that age group, so they're not so rare," Noymer said. "We're going to see more deaths in that age group because they think they're invincible and don't vaccinate, so that doesn't really surprise me."
Increasing vaccinations will help drive down the death toll, Noymer said.
"To get those deaths to go down we need to get to better than 2 million" vaccinated, Noymer said. "We won't see January 2021 death rates again. That ship has sailed, thank God. Good riddance. But we're not done seeing mortality."
The death toll for August is now 23, higher than July's 16. Despite the increase in fatalities, the death toll is notably lower than during the spring.
"The July and August deaths are still quite modest,'' Noymer said.