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Orange County hits ‘high’ transmission of COVID-19 again

Hundreds of guests watch a fireworks show at the Orange County fairgrounds on July 3.
Hundreds of guests watch the firework show during the Independence Day Community Celebration presented by the city of Costa Mesa at the Orange County fairgrounds in Costa Mesa on July 3.
(James Carbone)

As recent Independence Day celebrations recede into memory and the Orange County Fair begins, the Orange County Health Care Agency reported Friday “high” area transmission of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

The determination is in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control, which established a three-tier system to measure transmission and impacts of the disease. Orange County currently falls within its highest tier, where its seven-day average case rate has ballooned to 33.1 for every 100,000 residents — well over the CDC’s average threshold of 20.

“We are seeing a summer wave in cases and hospitalizations, and this move to the ‘high’ transmission level confirms that,” said agency director Dr. Clayton Chau in a statement.

“To protect those at high risk, we are recommending that O.C. residents continue masking in public indoor settings, especially those who are at high risk or living with loved ones who have comorbidities, are immunocompromised or are prone to getting sick,” said Chau.

For counties in its “high” tier, the CDC recommends indoor public masking, including on public transit.

The agency reported Friday 4,226 new cases between July 12 and 14. At least 277 COVID-19 patients are being cared for in area hospitals, with 35 in intensive care units.

The Omicron subvariant BA.2 — said to be 30 to 60% more contagious than its predecessor — appears to have become the most common variant in Orange County.

The average daily number of new COVID-19 cases is 1,068, but these are only the cases where PCR testing has been used. Officials at the agency noted a number of cases have likely gone unreported due to the increased use of rapid at-home antigen tests.

About 2.3 million residents in Orange County are fully vaccinated, according to officials.

Neighboring Los Angeles County appears to be on the precipice of a new mask order by July 29 if case and hospitalization numbers remain high. But as of Friday it did not appear the same will be true in Orange County, according to deputy health director Dr. Matthew Zahn.

“The [health care agency] continues to monitor the data closely, but HCA has no plans to institute a mandatory mask mandate,” said Zahn. “That doesn’t mean we aren’t concerned, and we continue to strongly recommend that people mask when attending indoor gatherings, as we know they are a very effective means to prevent the spread.

“We also now have more preventive measures to take now that we didn’t have in the past. We have safe, effective vaccines and boosters, and now we have treatments. For those at the highest risk, there are antiviral treatments available to prevent serious illness.”

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

  • Costa Mesa: 21,195 cases; 198 deaths
  • Fountain Valley: 10,191 cases; 129 deaths
  • Huntington Beach: 29,595 cases; 336 deaths
  • Laguna Beach: 2,781 cases; 12 deaths
  • Newport Beach: 10,128 cases; 138 deaths

For more information, visit occovid19.ochealthinfo.com/coronavirus-in-oc.

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