SANTA ANA (CNS)—Orange County Jan. 20 reported 31 more COVID-19 fatalities, hiking the death toll above 2,500, and the vaccination site at Disneyland had to be closed for a second consecutive day due to windy weather.
Health officials said that despite those setbacks and 1,701 new cases being reported Jan. 20, the good news is that case rates and hospitalization rates are trending down.
Of the deaths reported, one was from a skilled nursing facility. Since the pandemic began, 766 of the fatalities were skilled nursing facility residents and 275 were assisted living facility residents.
The death toll now stands at 2,508.
Since Jan. 17, the county has reported 188 coronavirus-related fatalities. Last week, the county reported 279 deaths, up from 140 the prior week.
The reporting of the fatalities is often delayed as they come from multiple sources. The death toll for December, the deadliest month since the pandemic began, stands at 703, far outpacing the previous high of 379 in July during the summer surge.
The deadliest day since the pandemic started was Dec. 22 when 44 people died.
January appears to be shaping up to even deadlier as 103 deaths have occurred this month.
“It’s really sad, but there is no other way to interpret the data—that it’s related to social gatherings that occur during the holidays,” Orange County chief executive Frank Kim said Jan. 19.
The good news is that Orange County’s adjusted daily case rate per 100,000 has decreased to 67.1 from 78.8 last week.
The county’s seven-day positivity rate dropped from 19.5 percent to 16.7 percent.
“Over the last five or six days we’ve seen a decline in positivity,” Kim said. “So I see that as a positive trend.”
What’s especially encouraging is that the decline was seen even as the testing volume increased. Given that, “I have more confidence in that decline,” Kim said.
The county’s state-adjusted ICU bed availability remains at zero, and the unadjusted figure stood at 5.4 percent. The state created the adjusted metric to reflect the difference in beds available for COVID-19 patients and non-coronavirus patients. The county has 34 percent of its ventilators available.
The Southern California region remains at zero ICU availability.
“Hospital numbers are down, so that’s good,” said Andrew Noymer, a University of California—Irvine professor of population health and disease prevention. “ICU numbers are down from the peak, so that’s good, too… Also, testing positivity is going down, so I’m cautiously optimistic that we’re seeing a decline, but heavy emphasis on cautiously optimistic.”
Noymer said he assumes the so-called U.K. variant of coronavirus, which is much more contagious and has been located in San Diego and Los Angeles, is also present in Orange County.
There were setbacks Jan. 19 and Jan. 20 when the county had to close its new ”Super POD” (point of distribution) vaccination site at Disneyland due to windy weather. There was concern about gusts uprooting the tents being used at the site, Kim said.
Appointments will resume using the Othena.com platform as soon as weather permits, officials said.
County officials also were concerned about a slowdown in the supply of vaccines, Kim said.
“I was told we were getting around 43,000 doses today and there might be another 16,000 later this week,” Kim said Jan. 19.
“But, for us, our concern is wanting to open up a second POD site,” and that is unlikely without enough vaccines to justify it, Kim said.
“It’s a huge logistical lift to create another POD,” Kim said.
“We’re ready to go on another POD site, but we just want to know there’s
reliability in the supply to keep both sites operating.”
The 16,310 test results reported Wednesday raises the cumulative total to 2,474,297.