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Orange County sees rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations, cases mirroring country

Visitors enjoy the Newport Beach Fun Zone. Health officials say COVID-19 cases are rising in Orange County.
Visitors enjoy the Newport Beach Fun Zone in April. Health officials say COVID-19 cases are rising and that, likely, is coming from decreased masking, distancing and hand hygiene.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

As the summer tourist season nears, coronavirus cases are steadily ticking upward again in Orange County and mirroring trends in neighboring Los Angeles County, where officials are concerned about the growth of cases in schools and workplaces.

According to weekly data reported by the Orange County Health Care Agency, COVID-related hospitalizations recently climbed to 101, with at least 17 of those cases being in intensive care wards. About 1,728 cases of the coronavirus were reported countywide.

County health officer Dr. Regina Chinsio-Kwong said Wednesday the number of cases might actually be underreported because of the usage of at-home antigen tests, which don’t get reported into the county and therefore are not folded into their statistics.

“Cases are likely rising from a combination of factors including but not limited to decreased practice of preventive strategies — reduced use of masking, distancing, hand hygiene — waning immunity and increased gatherings,” said Chinsio-Kwong. “The reduced practice of preventive strategies leads to further transmission of COVID variants that are known to be much more transmissible than previously circulating variants.”

A statement released from the county health care agency stated that since April 18, data indicates the seven-day average COVID-19 case rate has nearly doubled from 4.8 to 10.5 for every 100,000 residents. The daily average cases grew from 155 to 339 in that same time frame and hospitalizations increased from 60 to 117. Ten of those hospitalizations included pediatric patients.

Still, case rates are not nearly as high as they were during the winter at the height of the Omicron surge, when 11,406 cases were reported on Jan. 4. Data indicates Omicron is still the most common variant reported from residents in Orange County.

“Everyone needs to be vigilant and mindful that there is the possibility of transmission of variants that may escape our immunity and that there are still many around us who are at risk for developing severe illness,” said Chinsio-Kwong, who urged residents to not only be up-to-date on their vaccinations, but to continue mitigating efforts, especially if they are themselves at high risk or are around other individuals who are.

Orange County schools have not recorded a spike. Data for the week of May 1 indicates zero cases in teachers, staff and students were reported countywide. This compares to data reported the week of April 24, when there were at least nine student cases; four teacher cases; and two staff cases.

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