Friday, February 26
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Orange County is on a coronavirus case rate record-breaking streak – OCRegister

In a now almost routine upping of the ante, metrics tracking Orange County’s rate and spread of coronavirus cases again broke records this week, according to a state update released Tuesday, Jan. 5.

The county’s case rate was 67.8 cases per day per 100,000 residents, up from 53.5 cases per 100,000 last week for a fifth straight record-breaking week.

In comparison, the rate of new cases during the summer surge peaked at roughly 27 cases per 100,000.

Testing positivity – the share of positive swabs tests out of all administered – climbed to 17.1% from 16.9% last week. Recent rates are well above a relatively modest 3.6% testing positivity recorded in early November.

Health equity – testing positivity among a county’s hard-hit and generally low-income neighborhoods – dipped to 23.4% from 24.2% last week, signaling a slight improvement in areas with less access to health care.

But attention is really on hospitals, which are filling past capacity with the community’s sickest.

Just about 5% of Orange County’s adult intensive care beds were staffed and ready to take patients on Monday – COVID-19 or not – according to the Health Care Agency.

“We need to prepare for the next two weeks, because there will be more people who need hospitalization,” said Dr. Clayton Chau, Health Care Agency director and county health officer.

Orange County is one of many in California that has seen a protracted increase in cases, Chau said, and because of a dip in testing and test result bottlenecks due to the holidays, it’s not yet clear how bad the situation will get.

“I’m just bracing myself for what’s to come in about a week or two,” Chau said, adding that while some public health experts are seeing case rates level off, it’ll likely be a short respite ahead of a swell of cases caused by holiday gatherings.

Chau said pandemic rule flouting has continued as people traveled and attended Christmas and New Years Eve dinners and parties. Southern California is still squarely under the state’s most restrictive regional stay-at-home orders that prohibit public and private gatherings and limit business and public sector operations.

It’s likely, he said, that people are relaxing their masking and social distancing habits because they’ve heard vaccinations have begun.

“The vaccine gives us hope – (it) certainly gives me hope,” Chau said, but at the same time, coronavirus-related hospitalizations have never been higher in Orange County, and skeptics should drive by an emergency room themselves.

“Folks who take this with a cavalier attitude, think of your parents, think of your grandparents,” Chau said. “I’m just begging people to think of the vulnerable population in our community.”

To help the situation, Orange County residents need to get tested as soon as they think they’ve been exposed to COVID-19, Chau said, so they can see their doctor before bad symptoms set in and stay out of an emergency room.

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