Orange County reported 528 new cases of COVID-19 and two additional deaths on Saturday, bringing the province’s total to 64,586 cases and 1,524 deaths.
Officials said the recent spike in cases – 598 cases were reported on Friday – makes it almost certain the county will drop to the more restrictive purple level of the roadmap to reopen the state’s economy next week.
OC CEO Frank Kim said Friday, “It’s not a record, but it’s pretty much putting on a bow – maybe we’ll be purple for two weeks in a row. That ship has sailed.”
The number of county residents hospitalized with the virus has decreased from 244 on Friday to 235, with 90 of them in intensive care, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency.
Both died on Saturday in nursing homes.
The change in the mean of three days for hospitalized patients went from 17.3% to 8.5%. The county has 30% of ICU beds and 65% of ventilators available.
According to OCHCA data, 1,242,434 tests have been conducted for COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, including 12,871 reported on Saturday. There were 56,154 documented recoveries.
The county’s rate of positivity, which is reported every Tuesday, has decreased from 3.6% to 3.3% this week, and the rate of daily cases per 100,000 inhabitants has decreased from 6 to 5.6.
The district’s quarterly positivity rate for health equity, which measures the province’s response to virus hotspots, decreased from 5.7% to 5.5%. A county must reach at least 5.2% on this scale to be promoted from red to orange.
In the coming week, the county’s case rate per 100,000 may jump to around 8, outpacing the 4 to 7 rate at the red level, Kim said.
Andrew Du, vice chair of Orange County’s Board of Supervisors, said next week the county will announce a plan to provide home coronavirus testing kits to residents to help stem the wave of COVID-19.
The county has obtained 500,000 test kits that can detect corona virus from saliva. Du said plans are to make it available in public libraries and city halls across the province.
“We want it to be mobile and neighborhood-wide, so people can see the test as part of their safe vacation practices,” he said. “Before you go to see your grandparents, two or three days before the test, and after the family meeting, wait two or three days and you will take the test again. That way you know entering or leaving a place – together you are safe and the people you are with are safe.”
Experts recommend buffering for two to three days because it can take a long time before the infection is detected from the test.
“We haven’t worked through the protocol yet, but by next week we’ll have a program that includes sites that are easy for people to access,” Du said.
He said the rise in the number of cases was “alarming”. “It indicates a very difficult winter season is coming, and people should be very vigilant with the holiday season.”
Du said county officials will soon issue recommendations on best practices for get-together during the holidays, which include eating outdoors and keeping small gatherings.
“Make it a lunch where the weather is more tolerable,” he said.
Officials say the daily rate of new cases should drop to about 130 for Orange County to reach the orange level, allowing more companies to reopen and for some already open to increase their capacity. But the county has to keep fewer than 229 new daily cases to stay at the red level.
Kim said it is clear the province will decline from red to purple. But he said there would be no changes in terms of capacity at other stores and companies right away.
“You have to stay in it for two weeks” before the restrictions take effect, Kim said.
If the province remains at the purple level as of November 24, the restrictions will be enforced after three days. This means restaurants can still serve indoor food for Thanksgiving and malls will have extra capacity to shop on Black Friday.
Kim said, “The governor did a good job putting in place this two-week clause. That gives you a week to have this discussion (with the companies) … I hope it doesn’t pay off, but if it does, there won’t be surprises.”
Schools will not be closed, but there will be no reopening of a new school unless they can get variation from the county.
Among the businesses and institutions that will be closed for indoor activity are churches, museums, zoos, aquariums, gyms, restaurants, and movie theaters.