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‘All of these numbers are positive signs’: O.C. reports dip in COVID-19 hospitalizations, cases

Dr. Clayton Chau, the director of the Orange County Health Care Agency, stands in front of a podium.
Dr. Clayton Chau, the director of the Orange County Health Care Agency, updated residents on the latest COVID-19 news during a press conference Tuesday.
(Screenshot by Priscella Vega)
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COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Orange County are slowly declining, marking what appears to be the potential end to the winter surge likely fueled by the highly contagious Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

The Orange County Health Care Agency reported Tuesday 702 new cases and 431 hospitalizations, including patients in the intensive care unit. The agency also tallied 18 additional deaths, bringing the cumulative number of fatalities to 6,376 since the pandemic began in 2020.

Agency director Dr. Clayton Chau shared in a virtual press conference Tuesday afternoon that the adjusted case rate also decreased to about 29 per 100,000 case rate. Case positivity, he said, also decreased to 7.3% overall.

Pediatric hospitalizations are also dipping. There are currently 22 children in the hospital and three in the ICU.

Overall, 74% of the eligible population who are 5 and older are fully vaccinated and more than 80% have had at least one dose, he added.

“All of these numbers are positive signs that our most recent surge is slowing down, not only here in Orange County, but throughout the state and the nation,” Chau said.

But Chau is “most proud of” the county’s senior population, as 99.9% have received at least one dose of the vaccine. He said about 93% of those 65 and older are fully vaccinated.

“That is a number for us to be proud of,” Chau said. “And I know that there’s a lot of entities who have worked together with the county, the health system, the pharmacies, the community clinic have really been driving this effort.”

Beginning Wednesday, state health officials will lift its mask mandate that required all residents 2 and older to wear masks in most indoor public spaces. Masks will still be required for unvaccinated residents indoors and for everyone in select settings such as hospitals, public transit and nursing homes.

Despite the state loosening its mask rules, county health officials have recommended fully vaccinated individuals to assess their own risk and follow safety precautions if they live with a loved one who is immunocompromised.

For more information about COVID-19 in O.C., visit: www.occovid19.ochealthinfo.com/coronavirus-in-oc.

Homeless shelter count

In other news, beginning Tuesday, volunteers will fan out across the county to begin the federally required Point in Time count, a comprehensive census of the area’s homeless population in 2022.

After setbacks prompted by the pandemic, the county will have fresh data that determines how much funding it receives to combat homeless issues. It also helps agencies update their practices and resources. The last count was held in 2019.

Doug Becht, director of operations at the county’s Office of Care Coordination, said one change in this year’s methodology will be spreading the count over three days instead of two, with each day focusing on a different area of the county. This change, he said, will help them have “apple to apple” results that show an accurate measure to 2019.

As of Tuesday afternoon, a little over 525 volunteers have signed up to help with the count, according to Becht. The county needs at least 75 more volunteers to fall within their “ideal” 600 to 800 range.

“This is a truly unique opportunity to volunteer and serve your community,” Becht said.

Residents still have time to sign up and help. All volunteers must show proof of being fully vaccinated, including the booster shot, with the second dose completed in the last six months. Otherwise they will be required to show proof of a negative PCR test within 48 hours of the scheduled volunteer shift. Despite vaccination status, masks must be worn.

Visit www.everyonecountsoc.org/ for more information and to register.

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