OC Officials to Target Nursing Facilities in Effort to Reduce COVID-19 Restrictions

October 18, 2020 Updated: October 18, 2020

SANTA ANA, Calif. (CNS)—Orange County officials said they are targeting efforts at skilled nursing facilities in an effort to elevate the county to the next, less restrictive tier on the state’s COVID-19 monitoring list.

County officials plan to use federal Coronavirus Aid, Recovery, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding to provide more personal protective equipment, staffing, and other needs to skilled nursing facilities and assisted living facilities, said Dr. Clayton Chau, director of the Orange County Health Care Agency and the county’s chief health officer.

Some resources also will be directed toward community clinics to help reach out to residents with chronic health conditions, he said.

Orange County CEO Frank Kim said the Board of Supervisors on Oct. 20 will consider increasing spending on efforts to help improve safety at skilled nursing facilities.

Officials are aiming for a weekly average of 130 new cases daily, which would vault the county from the second-most restrictive red tier to the orange tier of the state’s four-tier economic-reopening roadmap. The county has to remain under 225 to stay within the red tier, Kim said.

To qualify for the orange tier, the positivity rate must be 2 percent to 4 percent, and the case rate per 100,000 people must be 1 to 3.9.

On Oct. 18, Orange County reported 196 new cases of COVID-19 and no additional deaths, bringing the county’s totals to 56,868 cases with 1,409 fatalities.

Since the pandemic began, 524 of the county’s fatalities involved skilled-nursing facility residents and 111 resided in assisted-living facilities.

With the holiday season advancing, Chau warned people to avoid extended family gatherings. And for Halloween, families are encouraged to celebrate at home or online, or take part in drive-thru events that promote physical distancing, he said.

Parents could dress up their kids in costume and do a walk around the neighborhood with their immediate family, but “personally, I say stay home,” Chau said.

He noted if there is infection linked to a Halloween event, “It would be difficult to find and notify those who were exposed.”

For Dia de los Muertos, Day of the Dead, residents are encouraged to view altars online or displays that are viewable to passersby, Chau said.

“Do not mix with other households—that’s really important,” he said.

“Parties and in-person, door-to-door trick-or-treating pose a high risk of transmitting COVID-19. This year, I would suggest parents maybe you should buy candy and give it to your own kid.”

Moving to the orange tier would mean retail businesses could operate at full capacity, instead of 50 percent as required in the red tier. Shopping malls could also operate at full capacity, but with closed common areas and reduced food courts, just as in the red tier.

Hospitalizations increased slightly from 159 to 162 on Oct. 18, while the number of intensive care unit patients rose from 56 to 59, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency (OCHCA).

The change in the three-day average of hospitalized patients went from .2 percent to .4 percent. The county has 35 percent of its intensive care unit (ICU) beds and 68 percent of its ventilators available.

According to OCHCA data, 993,760 COVID-19 tests have been conducted, including 9,489 reported on Oct. 18. There have been 50,839 documented recoveries.

The county has reported 69 COVID-19-related deaths since Oct. 11. The previous week, 54 deaths were reported from the disease, down from 72 the week before and 77 the week before that.

The positivity rate, which is reported each Tuesday, inched up from 3.2 percent last week to 3.5 percent, but the daily case rate per 100,000 people declined from 5.2 to 4.6, moving the county closer to an upgrade from the red to the orange tier in the state’s monitoring system.