Orange County’s COVID-19 `Wave’ Continues

SANTA ANA (CNS) – Orange County’s COVID-19 summer wave continued with rising infection rates and a dozen more fatalities this month, according to data released Friday by the Orange County Health Care Agency.

The number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 went from 287 on Monday to 301 on Tuesday, 296 on Wednesday and 277 on Thursday. The number of patients in intensive care went from 30 on Monday to 35 on Thursday.

Officials cannot determine how many of the patients currently hospitalized were admitted directly for COVID-19 or tested positive while being treated for another ailment.

But from June 1-30, there have been 124 unvaccinated patients admitted directly for COVID-19, while 24 were vaccinated, according to the agency. And from July 1 through July 10, 24 patients were admitted who were not vaccinated.

According to the county, 83.4% of the patients are unvaccinated and 87.1% of ICU patients are unvaccinated.

The county has 23.6% of its ICU beds available. When that rate is above the 20% level, officials become concerned.

The county’s testing positivity rate increased from 17.4% Monday to 18% Thursday, and rose from 17.8% to 18.5% in the health equity quartile, which measures the communities hardest hit by the pandemic.

The county’s daily case rate per 100,000 people is 33.1 on a seven-day average with a seven-day lag, and 32.1 for the adjusted rate, also with a seven-day average and seven-day lag.

The county logged 4,226 more infections Tuesday through Thursday, raising the cumulative case count to 620,698. The 15 newly logged fatalities increased the overall death toll to 7,170.

A dozen of the fatalities occurred this month, increasing the overall death toll for July to 13. The others occurred in June, increasing the death toll to 43.

May’s death toll stands at 35. April’s death toll stands at 34, and the March death toll stands at 89. February’s death toll stands at 343, and January’s death toll is at 569.

The OCHCA provides regular COVID updates on Tuesdays and Fridays.

The case rate per 100,000 people for fully vaccinated residents who have received a vaccine booster went from 40.4  July 3 to 35.4 on July 10, the latest data available show. The case rate for residents fully vaccinated with no booster went from 24 to 21.2, and from 39.4 to 35.3 for residents not fully vaccinated.

“It’s more of the same,” Andrew Noymer, an epidemiologist and UC Irvine professor of population health and disease prevention, told City News Service on Friday. “What struck me is we passed 18% positivity. … We’re in a wave of Covid.”

Indoor masking is being brought back to the UC Irvine campus on Monday, Noymer said.

“People keep saying it’s not as deadly anymore,” Noymer said.

But Noymer pointed to the number of deaths so far in July and said, “That’s a lot of deaths for a respiratory virus in the summer time.”

Noymer encouraged anyone eligible for a second booster shot to get one, though they are having “diminishing returns” as the virus mutates.

The number of vaccinations administered in Orange County increased from 2,328,630 to 2,330,214, according to data released on Tuesday. That number includes an increase from 2,189,959 to 2,191,731 residents who have received the two-dose regimen of vaccines from Pfizer or Moderna. The county has also logged 202,202 residents who received one of two shots of Pfizer or Moderna.

The number of residents who have received the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine stands at 138,483.

Booster shots increased from 1,340,385 to 1,344,914.

In the most recently authorized age group of children younger than 5, only 71 have received shots, according to the agency.

In the age group of 5-11 years old, the number of children vaccinated increased from 92,842 to 93,868, or 35%, versus 175,512, or 65%, who have not been vaccinated.

In contrast, in the 12-17 age group, 68% are vaccinated and 32% are unvaccinated.

Dr. Steven Abelowitz, regional medical director of Coastal Kids Pediatrics, told City News Service he was “really disappointed” in the level of acceptance of vaccines for children.

“In the under 5 group, we’re seeing even more resistance from parents,” Abelowitz said. “The misinformation that has got to them has really put the fear of the side effects in their minds.”

Abelowitz said Coastal Kids doctors emphasize that the risks of COVID- 19 are far worse than an adverse reaction from a shot.

“We tell them that no matter which way you look at it, the adverse results of both acute and long-term for Covid far outweigh any of the risks from the Covid vaccines. There’s no comparison,” the pediatrician said.

Parents sometimes say they fear the vaccines because they are “new and it was rushed,” Abelowitz said.

But Abelowitz noted that the technology of the mRNA vaccines has been in the works for years and scientists now have a tremendous amount of data on the shots as they have been put in arms over the past year and a half globally.

“Yes, we don’t have years and years of checking, but we don’t always need that,” Abelowitz said. “We’ve got billions of people, a walking laboratory. There’s nothing in history that has come close in such a short period of time which has such tremendous validity to it.”

But, Abelowitz added, “The access to also less-credible resources now with social media and all of the others is, I think, the primary cause (of misinformation). Access to misinformation that sounds credible is the biggest challenge we have.”

But parents trust their family pediatrician, so Coastal Kids doctors attempt to get the word out one-on-one and through the practice’s social media and with emailed messages.

“We tell them we recommend the vaccines because we know that the benefits outweigh the risks,” Abelowitz said. “We tell them that the FDA has conducted very careful and thoughtful reviews of safety and effectiveness of vaccines on children, especially the under 5. They took the longest on that age group because they wanted to be more thoughtful and careful.”

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