COVID-19 Hospitalizations Drop Again in Orange County

March 21, 2021 Updated: March 21, 2021

SANTA ANA—Orange County reported 113 new cases of COVID-19 and 45 additional deaths on March 21.

The county’s hospitalizations for COVID-19—a key metric officials are eyeing in this phase of the pandemic—dropped to 187 on March 21 from 197 on March 20, with the number of patients in intensive care remaining at 43, the Orange County Health Care Agency reported.

March 21’s numbers brought the county’s totals to 249,539 cases and 4,607 fatalities since the pandemic began.

The test positivity rate as of March 21 was at 2.2 percent and 3.5 percent in the so-called health equity category that measures the underprivileged neighborhoods hardest hit during the pandemic.

The county had 33.3 percent of its ICU beds available, and 72 percent of its ventilators. The OCHCA also reported 8,003 COVID-19 tests on March 21, raising the cumulative total to 3,249,404. There have been 240,949 documented recoveries.

The case rate was 4 per 100,000 residents. But that doesn’t automatically propel the county into the orange tier of the state’s economic re-opening system. That will not happen until April 7 at the earliest if the current trends continue.

Orange County chief executive Frank Kim said the county could make it to the orange tier sooner if the state authorizes it, as it did when officials moved up the county’s graduation into the red tier. Supervisor Lisa Bartlett said it could hinge on whether the state makes its goal of 4 million inoculations in underprivileged communities by the beginning of April.

The county is doing 312.9 tests per 100,000 on a seven-day average with a seven-day lag.

The county’s testing average mirrors the state average, Kim said.

The latest weekly update from the state, issued on March 16, showed the county’s test positivity rate improved to 2.2 percent from 3.2 percent from the previous Tuesday, and the adjusted case rate per 100,000 people on a seven-day average with a seven-day lag improved from 6 to 4.

That puts the county just one-tenth of a point away from meeting the threshold for the orange tier for case rate. If the trend continues, the county could move up to the orange tier by April 7, three days after Easter.

County supervisors on March 23 will consider whether to approve a memorandum of understanding with the state or Blue Shield on vaccine distribution. Kim said the county is inclined to go with Blue Shield because it will be easier to transition its Othena app to the insurance company’s data-collection system.