SANTA ANA—Orange County reported 79 new cases of COVID-19 and five additional deaths April 18, while coronavirus hospitalizations in the county decreased.
The latest numbers brought the county’s totals to 252,963 cases and 4,896 fatalities since the pandemic began, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency.
The number of COVID patients in county hospitals dropped from 134 on April 17 to 124, while the number of those in intensive care dropped from 25 to 23. The county has 35.2 percent of its ICU beds available and 74 percent of its ventilators.
Another 8,032 COVID-19 tests were logged April 18 for a total of 3,542,407.
As of April 15, the county’s average daily rate of new COVID cases was 2.9 per 100,000 residents, and the overall positivity rate was 1.5 percent. The positivity rate in underprivileged communities in the health equity category was 1.6 percent, Orange County chief executive Frank Kim said.
“In terms of positivity rates, there isn’t a significant disparity,” Kim said.
Andrew Noymer, a University of California–Irvine professor of population health and disease prevention, said the county’s trends continue to offer good news.
“Hospitalizations are still holding steady, but not going up appreciably,” Noymer said April 15.
The county is pumping more shots in arms as the eligibility has widened to anyone 16 and older, Kim said.
“We did almost 16,000 vaccinations yesterday,” Kim said. “We’re taking 16,000 to 17,000 appointments a day, so that’s up a couple of thousand.”
Kim said staff at the vaccination sites have been trained to make sure anyone who is underage has a parent or legal guardian with them. A letter from a parent will not be accepted, he said.
Noymer said it will likely be a few weeks before it is easy to get an appointment for an inoculation.
“I have Twitter followers saying they can’t get appointments,” Noymer said. “To some extent, you have to be somewhat tenacious if you want a vaccination within the next few weeks. Just because we’re going wide doesn’t mean you weren’t going to have go through some rigamarole.”
Noymer added, “People are just going to need to be patient and keep trying.”
As more people get vaccinated the appointments will open up, Noymer said.
“It will come to the point and, quite frankly sooner than later, when anyone can get a shot anytime where they can and basically walk into any retail pharmacy and get a shot,” he said.
“If things were going to take a turn for the worse those tests would blindside us with positives, and that hasn’t happened, so that’s good news,” Noymer said.
Noymer said he wouldn’t second-guess the federal officials who put a pause on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine because of six cases of potentially dangerous blood clots among millions of vaccinations.
“One thing a lot of people don’t realize is just how high the bar is for these vaccines,” Noymer said. “One-in-a-million blood clots might actually be enough to knock it off the market.”
So far, the county has dispensed nearly 2 million doses of vaccine, Kim said.
County-run vaccination sites will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. as usual, but on Thursdays, the OC Fair and Event Center site will be open from noon to 8 p.m., Kim said. The Santa Ana College vaccination site also offers noon to 8 p.m. hours on Mondays, he added.
If the night hours are popular officials will consider adding more evening hours in the future, Kim said.