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Hospitalizations trending upward in O.C., but officials not yet considering mask mandate

Jacques and Abigail Carrere ride the carousel at South Coast Plaza in June.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

COVID hospitalizations are climbing in Orange County, but county health officials aren’t sounding the alarm just yet.

The Orange County Health Care Agency recently reported an increase in hospitalizations from the 126 cases reported on Tuesday to 143 cases on Wednesday.

The number of intensive care unit patients fell from 59 to 35 in that same time frame.

As of Thursday, data showed that hospitalizations were at 149 and intensive care units cases at 39 in area hospitals.

Another 304 cases were reported Thursday, bringing the total number of COVID-19 cases logged in the county to 260,289.

Two new deaths, both of residents not living in a care facility, were also recorded on Thursday. The total number of people that have died from COVID-19 in Orange County is now 5,138.

“We are seeing a gradual increase in hospitalizations and intensive care unit cases since the reopening of California, which we were expecting when mask requirements were lifted and physical distancing was reduced,” Dr. Regina Chinsio-Kwong, county deputy health officer, said in an email Thursday afternoon.

Chinsio-Kwong said the rise in cases and hospitalizations in Orange County has been more gradual than in neighboring Los Angeles County, where new hospital admissions are up by 51.34% according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Comparatively, Orange County is seeing a 14.29% growth.

“We suspect this is primarily from the high vaccination rates we were able to achieve earlier on,” Chinsio-Kwong said.

At least 73% of the county’s adult population have received at least one vaccine, but Chinsio-Kwong said that the percentage of those who have been vaccinated is tapering off with an increase of only 3% of the adult population getting vaccinated in the last month.

Currently, 95% of hospitalized cases in Orange County are those who are unvaccinated, mirroring that of a national trend.

“As we see higher transmission rates in surrounding counties, we know that our rates will likely also increase — especially amongst the unvaccinated residents,” Chinsio-Kwong said.

“At this time the [Orange County Health Care Agency] is not recommending a mask mandate,” she said. “The [healthcare agency] is continuing to focus our message on advising those who have not yet received a vaccine to get one as soon as possible.”

“Given the higher transmission of the COVID variants compared to last year, we are recommending that [Orange County] residents and visitors continue to be proactive about protecting themselves and their loved ones and neighbors to reduce the risk of COVID infection,” Chinsio-Kwong said.

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