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Coronavirus cases on the rise again in Orange County

Hoag Hospital emergency in Newport Beach in January
COVID-19 hospitalizations in Orange County have more than doubled in the past two weeks, raising concerns among some health officials.
(Raul Roa / Staff Photographer)

COVID-19 hospitalizations in Orange County have more than doubled in the past two weeks, raising concerns among some health officials.

“I’m worried about the trend,” said Andrew Noymer, an epidemiologist and UC Irvine professor of population health and disease prevention.

The county has 1.8 million of its 3.3 million population fully vaccinated, so there are enough unvaccinated residents to potentially eventually threaten overwhelming the hospital system, Noymer said.

“I’m not saying it will become overrun,” he said. “It’s not a prediction…(but) 40% is enough with these new variants, which are more transmissible, to generate enough cases to overrun the hospital system,” Noymer said, referring to the unvaccinated population.

According to the state Department of Public Health, the county has 121 COVID-19 hospital patients with 26 in intensive care. That’s up from 73 hospitalized and 11 in the ICU as of July 6, the last time the county updated its statistics. The county has gone to a weekly update of statistics and will provide new statistics on Tuesday.

As of July 1, the county had 70 hospitalized with 13 in the ICU, and on June 29 the county had 56 hospitalized with 10 in the ICU. As of last week, the county had 5,124 COVID-19-related fatalities, which has risen to 5,136, according to the state.

As of last Tuesday, the county’s case rate edged up from 1 case in 100,0000 residents the prior week to 1.5, while the overall test positivity rate ticked up from 0.9% to 1.2%.

As of Monday, according to the state, the county’s rate is 2.5 per 100,000 residents and the positivity rate is up to 3%.

Noymer implored residents to get vaccinated.

“Breakthrough infections remain rare and significantly milder clinically, including sometimes being asymptomatic,” Noymer said. “And breakthrough infections really shouldn’t be a major talking point at this point. It’s not an epidemiologically significant factor. The current variants do not evade the vaccines.”

Noymer said he wishes Orange County would do a breakout graph on its website showing how many of the new cases involve unvaccinated residents as is being done in Contra Costa County.

“It’s this yawning divide between the vaccinated and unvaccinated in new cases,” Noymer said.

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