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Orange County reports third pediatric death of COVID-19, growing hospitalizations

Women wearing masks walk past business.
Women wearing masks walk past business along Harbor Boulevard in Costa Mesa on Thursday. The state health department recently extended its indoor mask wearing requirement this week.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

The Orange County Health Care Agency reported Thursday the death of a child from COVID-19, making this the third pediatric death in the county from the disease since the pandemic began in 2020.

The first death was reported in August 2020 of a teenage girl with underlying health condition and the second was reported in a child under the age of 5 in August 2021.

The third child is said to have been previously in good health, but under the age of 5 and thus ineligible to receive a vaccination.

The youngster died in December of complications from the disease.

“This just reminds us that COVID does affect the children. The child was too young to get vaccinated and this is why it is so important for everyone is eligible to to get vaccinated so that another young child that is ineligible doesn’t get COVID or dying from it,” said Dr. Regina Chinsio-Kwong, deputy county health officer. “We must be mindful.”

Only about 26% of children eligible for a vaccination — those ages 5 to 11 — have received at least one dose so far, according to Chinsio-Kwong, who said she hoped more parents would choose to vaccinate their children going forward.

It is unclear if the child’s death was related to the Omicron variant, which has taken over as the dominant strain of coronavirus in Orange County.

To date, there have been 12 cases of the variant in those younger than 12 and 13 cases in those ages 12 to 17. The largest representative cohort was those ages 18 to 34 with 170 cases. About 67 cases of the Omicron variant were reported in those 35 to 54; 17 in those 55 to 64; six cases in those 65 to 74; five cases in those 75 to 84; and two cases in those older than 85.

On Friday during a media briefing, Orange County health officials painted a dire picture of the ongoing winter surge that has assailed area hospitals. Ambulance wait times are now up to almost 52 minutes. Hospitals are full and hospitals also face staff shortages due to illness or exposure and a temporary stay of hospital diversions.

The health care agency reported 6,428 new cases and hospitalizations have now climbed to 779 with 112 of those cases currently being cared for in intensive care units.

About 87% of those hospitalized are unvaccinated, according to officials.

An estimated 162,643 tests were reported this week and Chinsio-Kwong also acknowledged the countywide shortage of tests. She said those who need a free test can request one through ochealthinfo.com/COVIDtest, or call the county’s COVID hotline Monday through Friday at (714) 834-2000.

She said demand for tests really grew toward the end of December as people prepared to return to the office and classrooms from the holidays, which then put strain on an already impacted staff.

“Our hospitals are full and emergency rooms are getting hit hard with patients coming in to get care or seeking tests,” said Chinsio-Kwong, who added that the next step for hospitals if demand continues and drop-off times remain high is that they may have to start considering delaying elective procedures.

County health officials urged residents to continue best practices to protect themselves and others by wearing a well-fitting mask, practicing good hand hygiene, distancing and isolating when residents feel any symptoms of COVID-19.

They also encouraged those who are unvaccinated to get vaccinated and, those who already are, to get a booster shot if they are eligible.

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

  • Santa Ana: 56,202 cases; 955 deaths
  • Anaheim: 55,689 cases; 1,044 deaths
  • Huntington Beach: 18,269 cases; 263 deaths
  • Costa Mesa: 13,731 cases; 162 deaths
  • Irvine: 20,656 cases; 119 deaths
  • Newport Beach: 6,914 cases; 108 deaths
  • Fountain Valley: 6,015 cases; 101 deaths
  • Laguna Beach: 1,698 cases; 10 deaths

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

  • 0 to 17: 46,530 cases; three deaths
  • 18 to 24: 51,079 cases; 10 deaths
  • 25 to 34: 75,275 cases; 76 deaths
  • 35 to 44: 58,332 cases; 161 deaths
  • 45 to 54: 57,594 cases; 410 deaths
  • 55 to 64: 45,309 cases; 881 deaths
  • 65 to 74: 22,390 cases; 1,152 deaths
  • 75 to 84: 11,226 cases; 1,414 deaths
  • 85 and older: 6,894 cases; 1,779 deaths

Updated figures are posted daily at occovid19.ochealthinfo.com/coronavirus-in-oc. For information on getting vaccinated, visit covidvaccinefacts.com.

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