Orange County Reports 2,752 New COVID-19 Cases, 78 Deaths

January 23, 2021 Updated: January 23, 2021

SANTA ANA—Orange County reported 2,752 new positive COVID-19 cases and 78 more deaths Jan. 23.

To date, there have been 221,493 coronavirus cases and 2,625 fatalities, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency.

There are currently 1,818 people hospitalized countywide with the disease, 482 of whom are in the intensive care unit.  The county’s state-adjusted intensive care unit (ICU) bed availability remains at zero, and the unadjusted figure increased from 5.4 percent Jan. 21 to 9.6 percent Jan 22. The state created the adjusted metric to reflect the difference in beds available for COVID-19 patients and non-coronavirus patients. The county has 35 percent of its ventilators available.

The Southern California region remains at zero ICU availability.

Orange County chief executive Frank Kim said the positivity rate has declined—from 19.7 percent on Jan. 10 to 14.5 percent on Friday.

“It’s a continuation of the trends we’ve seen,” he said. “What this tells me is that all of the indicators are consistent. The testing rate is still high, so these aren’t false numbers. Hospitalizations are down, the ICUs are trending down and the case positivity is coming down.”

But, he added, “If you look at our numbers they’re still very high compared to where we were before early November and the holidays, so it’s not time to celebrate yet.”

So far, the county has vaccinated about 55,000 people, Kim said.

The county’s app and website, Othena, is functioning much better after some bugs were ironed out, he said.

“We have a virtual queue now so the one issue we’ll get is people will get frustrated they’re not hearing from us because they’re number 250,000 in the queue,” Kim said. “But you no longer have to smash the buttons and try to get in when 3,000 slots open up.”

The app has logged about 400,000 registrants, Kim said.

There have been some complaints on social media from users who said they were turned away with an appointment, but Kim said about two dozen people not qualified in the state’s first tier for vaccines have shown up with appointments demanding shots. If they don’t meet the standards for the first phase, they have been turned away, Kim said.

The latest Super POD site for vaccinations opened Jan. 23 at Soka University of America in Aliso Viejo. There are about 2,500 to 3,000 appointments registered for Soka so far, Kim said.

The county hopes to ultimately open up to five large-scale vaccination sites, but until supplies of vaccines are assured, it likely won’t happen.

With the post-holiday case surges and deaths, the Orange County Sheriff’s Coroner’s Department has had to provide trailers with freezers to store an average of about 100 bodies until funeral homes can catch up and take them, Kim said.

Supervisor Lisa Bartlett said there have been problems with hospitals getting bodies to the coroner’s freezers, which have capacity for 1,100 bodies, because physicians are struggling with the paperwork as they care for patients.

Other issues include caps on cremations, which the county may have to lift, and burials at cemeteries, which will have to be negotiated with union workers, Bartlett said.

The outbreak in the county’s jails has continued to decline with the number of infected inmates dropping from 61 to 55 on Friday. Authorities were awaiting results of 411 tests. The number of inmates hospitalized dropped from three to two, after one death.

Outbreaks at nursing homes—defined as two or more over the past two weeks—continue with 36 skilled nursing facilities reporting outbreaks and 49 elderly assisted living facilities reporting an outbreak as of Jan. 21.

There are 15 Orange County residents being treated at Fairview Developmental Center in Costa Mesa, which was set up to handle overflow from local hospitals, and 11 patients from Los Angeles County.

Mobile field hospitals, which have been set up to help medical centers triage COVID-19 patients, are in operation at UC Irvine, which added 50 beds, Fountain Valley Regional Hospital and Medical Center, 25 beds, and St. Jude’s Hospital in Fullerton with 52 beds, Kim said.

Officials are in the process of setting up or discussing mobile field hospitals at Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo and Los Alamitos Medical Center.