O.C. COVID-19 cases continue to climb as health officials’ warnings on gatherings turn to pleas

People enjoy the outdoors along Ocean Boulevard in Newport Beach on Friday.
People enjoy the outdoors along Ocean Boulevard in Newport Beach on Friday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

As Orange County coronavirus cases continue to climb dangerously past hospitals’ treatment thresholds, county health officials’ warnings about not gathering with others this holiday season are taking a desperate tone.

Orange County Health Care Agency Director and Public Health Officer Dr. Clayton Chau, speaking Tuesday before the Orange County Board of Supervisors, painted a harrowing picture of the county’s health outlook given recent virus trends.

“The number of infections in our surrounding county has been rising every day. Every day we break the record for the number of people who’ve been infected,” he said. “Our hospitals are now bombarded. The emergency rooms have no capacity to triage people as quickly as they can. I’m pleading with the community, please, please do not gather.”

The agency on Friday recorded 2,594 new cases of coronavirus and three deaths, bringing Orange County’s cumulative case count to 116,377 and pushing the fatality rate to 1,734.

The Food and Drug Administration grants emergency-use authorization to the COVID-19 vaccine from Moderna and the National Institutes of Health.

Area hospitals reported they were treating 1,557 individuals for COVID-19, reflecting a 17.2 rise in the three-day average for hospitalizations, including 358 being cared for in intensive care units.

Women go for a walk in Newport Beach.
Women go for a walk in Newport Beach.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

The current rates are more than double those recorded by the Orange County Health Care Agency figures reported at the start of the month when, on Dec. 1, hospitals reported 648 COVID-19 hospitalizations with 158 ICU patients.

Chau pleaded with residents to take the upward trends seriously.

“The reason we have an increase in cases is because people are gathering and not following public health guidance — period,” he said. “I have never been so afraid of Christmas and New Year’s in my life like I am now — I can’t imagine what it would be like after the holiday if people are not listening and people are not complying.”

Rapidly filling hospitals in Orange County have been ordered not to redirect ambulances from their emergency rooms to other medical facilities.

The county’s seven-day average of new cases stands at 42.7 per 100,000 residents, while the average health equity quartile positivity rate is at 18.8%.

Some 20,989 tests were issued countywide Friday, bringing the cumulative number of tests issued to 1,810,442 and accounting for a seven-day average testing positivity rate of 13.2%.

Here are the latest cumulative coronavirus case counts and COVID-19 deaths for select cities in Orange County:

  • Santa Ana: 23,119 cases; 349 deaths
  • Anaheim: 19,757 cases; 372 deaths
  • Huntington Beach: 4,714 cases; 94 deaths
  • Costa Mesa: 3,797 cases; 49 deaths
  • Irvine: 4,257 cases; 19 deaths
  • Newport Beach: 1,822 cases; 28 deaths
  • Fountain Valley: 1,450 cases; 24 deaths
  • Laguna Beach: 413 cases; fewer than five deaths

Here are the case counts by age group, followed by deaths:

  • 0 to 17: 10,572 cases; one death
  • 18 to 24: 16,691 cases; four deaths
  • 25 to 34: 24,423 cases; 24 deaths
  • 35 to 44: 18,384 cases; 42 deaths
  • 45 to 54: 18,816 cases; 127 deaths
  • 55 to 64: 14,134 cases; 238 deaths
  • 65 to 74: 7,140 cases; 338 deaths
  • 75 to 84: 3,617 cases; 380 deaths
  • 85 and older: 2,535 cases; 580 deaths

The latest maps and charts on the spread of COVID-19 in Orange County, including cases, deaths, closures and restrictions.

Updated figures are posted daily at For information on getting tested, visit

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