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Coronavirus infections low, optimism growing in Orange County

Patrons wait to pick up Easter ham at HoneyBaked Ham in Huntington Beach.
Patrons, many of them wearing masks, wait to pick up food for their Easter meals at the HoneyBaked Ham Co. in Huntington Beach on Saturday.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Orange County officials on Tuesday continued to express cautious optimism that restrictions taken to stem the spread of the coronavirus were working.

On Monday, health officials reported nine new infections, a total that was revised later to eight. That was the fewest reported cases since March 17. On Tuesday, 23 new cases were reported, for a two-day count of 31 — the county’s lowest two-day total in three weeks. There were no additional deaths from COVID-19 reported Tuesday.

Countywide, the total case count now stands at 1,299. There have been 19 deaths linked to the coronavirus.

The COVID-19 mortality rate in Orange County was about 1.46% as of Tuesday. In Los Angeles County, where 40 new deaths were reported Tuesday among more than 10,000 cases, it was 3.6%.

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In our effort to cover this pandemic as thoroughly as possible, we’d like to hear from the loved ones of people who have died from the coronavirus.

Across Orange County, 122 COVID-19 patients are currently hospitalized, 62 of them in intensive care. To date, 14,977 people have undergone testing for COVID-19 in the county — 802 of them since Monday.

Orange County officials, while cautioning against reading too much into one or two data points, said the recent results indicated that steps taken to stem the spread of the coronavirus might be working.

“We are cautiously optimistic that the actions we have been asking Orange County residents to take through the governor’s executive order, as well as the state health officer’s order to stay at home, social distancing … are beginning to have an impact,” said David Souleles, director of public health services for the county Health Care Agency.

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Orange County reported 23 new coronavirus infections Tuesday as officials expressed cautious optimism about the direction the region was headed.

Given promising signs that such measures could be making a difference statewide, some officials — including Gov. Gavin Newsom — have begun publicly discussing what would need to happen for things to start returning to normal.

Health officials say that lifting stay-at-home orders and other restrictions will likely be a gradual process.

“I think the goal would be to lighten the restrictions over a period of time,” Souleles told the Orange County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday. “So rather than a light switch that says on a particular day we would go back to pre-COVID activity levels ... we would be backing out over time and slowly loosening the restrictions.”

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Supervisor Lisa Bartlett agreed that a cautious approach was the best road forward.

“The worst thing we can do is lift restrictions and the next thing you know we’ve got a surge in cases and our health system gets overwhelmed,” she said.

Supervisor Andrew Do pointed out that “sometimes it’s hard to prove a negative. The best you can hope for with good policy is to get a nothing, a non-event.”

“The best that we can hope for is to see what we’ve seen,” he said, “which is a relatively positive result.”

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