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O.C. officials monitoring increase in ICU hospitalizations from coronavirus

A runner pauses near a taped off staircase leading to the closed Huntington Beach Pier
A runner pauses near a taped-off staircase leading to the closed Huntington Beach Pier in March.
(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

Orange County officials said Wednesday they are continuing to monitor increases in hospitalization levels due to the coronavirus but that the trends don’t necessarily mean the county needs to slow its reopening of the economy.

Coronavirus-related ICU hospitalizations have jumped 76% in the last six weeks in Orange County. During the week of May 4, the county reported a seven-day average of 94 people with confirmed or suspected coronavirus infections in its ICU beds. Last week, that number rose to an average of 165 hospitalized.

In early May, the number of people hospitalized for the virus in Orange County was in the low 200s. A month later, those figures had jumped to the high 200s and low 300s.

Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett attributes some of the uptick to outbreaks in skilled nursing homes. She also noted that about two dozen patients in Orange County hospitals were from Imperial County.

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She added that Orange County Health Care Agency Director Dr. Clayton Chau is still reviewing a plan to reopen personal-care businesses in the county beginning Friday.

“I look to our public health officer to keep monitoring the data for positivity rates, hospitalizations, ICU beds and deaths to determine whether we need to readjust our reopening plans or other policies such as face coverings,” Bartlett said.

Despite the uptick in hospitalizations, Orange County Board of Supervisors Chair Michelle Steel indicated Wednesday that county leaders have no plans to tamp down reopening plans.

“Orange County has continued to meet the state’s metrics in the reopening process and remains below the state’s threshold to continue moving forward in the ‘resilience roadmap,’” she said in a statement. “We will continue to do so in accordance with state and federal guidelines while watching these numbers closely.”

County officials have said other data points — such as deaths and the number of positive COVID-19 tests — paint a more promising picture, as both numbers in Orange County compare favorably with neighboring counties.

“While we are not out of this completely yet, Orange County is in good position to continue moving forward,” Steel said last week, “and we have reason to be positive about where we are.”

Los Angeles County public health officials on Wednesday reemphasized the need for people to maintain physical distancing, wash their hands and wear face coverings as more public spaces reopen.

“We have learned that simple face coverings that cover your nose and your mouth, along with keeping your distance from others, is very effective at preventing the spread of your droplets to others and thus reduces the risk of you infecting someone else unknowingly,” said Dr. Christina Ghaly, director of the county’s Department of Health Services. “We need to respect and work with the structural changes in our communities that are being put in place.”

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Los Angeles County officials have not yet outlined plans for the next stage of reopening.

L.A. County officials announced 34 new coronavirus-related fatalities Wednesday, bringing the death toll to 2,991. In addition, 2,129 new cases were announced, raising the countywide infection total to 77,189.

Despite the uptick in the number of deaths, L.A. county’s daily fatality rate has declined compared with a month ago. In early May, the average daily number of deaths in the county was about 45. By early June, that number had dropped to about 33, county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said.

Hospitalizations have also remained steady, officials said.


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