Orange County Remains in Orange Tier for COVID-19

SANTA ANA—Orange County continues to show encouraging signs of declining COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, and a major healthcare provider has opened one of two new mass vaccination sites in the county.

“The numbers are looking great in Orange County,” Andrew Noymer, a University of California–Irvine professor of population health and disease prevention, told City News Service.

The county on April 21 reported 53 new COVID-19 cases, upping the cumulative total to 253,206, and logged two deaths, one of which occurred in January and the other in December—bringing the number or coronavirus fatalities in the region to 4,902.

The number of COVID patients in county hospitals fell from 127 on April 20 to 110, and the number of those in intensive care units decreased from 25 to 23.

The county has 36.2 percent of its intensive care unit beds available and 74 percent of its ventilators.

Noymer analyzed data from states across the country on April 21 and noted that while some may be struggling with upswings in cases, that is not the case in California.

“We definitely don’t seem to be going the way of Michigan,” he said. “New Jersey’s not great, Rhode Island’s not great, but Michigan is far and away the only Michigan. I’m liking the numbers in Orange County today. California is doing the best of the lower 48.”

Noymer added, “I would really love to see those hospitalizations below 100 anytime soon.”

Meanwhile, Providence, the national nonprofit healthcare provider, partnered with Edwards Lifesciences, an Orange County-based medical technology company, and the cities of Irvine, Santa Ana, Costa Mesa and Tustin to open two mass vaccination clinics.

One opened April 21 at the Edwards Lifesciences offices at 3009 Daimler St. in Santa Ana, and the other at the Orange County Great Park in Irvine will open on April 26 as a drive-thru clinic.

Noymer said it is probably time to turn over vaccinations to traditional healthcare providers like pharmacies.

“Just do it through Rite-Aid, CVS and Walgreens,” he said. “Just do it the way we do the flu vaccine, which works. The politicians have gotten their mileage out of the photo-op mega sites … It’s not what we really need.”

The pharmacies could do more vaccinations with more supply, Noymer said.

“Mega sites are for the hyper motivated” vaccine seekers, he said.

Soon, the focus will need to turn to reaching the residents who are more resistant to vaccines, Noymer said.

“The hard-core anti-vaxxers will pay a fine before they’re vaccinated,” he said. “I think there are some people who claim they won’t get it who are amenable to getting a shot.”

Coronavirus daily case rates continue to decline, but not enough for Orange County to move into the less-restrictive yellow tier of the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy.

According to numbers released April 20, the county’s weekly averages for adjusted daily case rate per 100,000 residents improved from 3 on April 13 to 2.8. The overall positivity rate improved from 1.6 percent to 1.4 percent.

The county’s Health Equity Quartile rate, which measures positivity in hotspots in disadvantaged communities, improved from 1.8 percent to 1.7 percent. The county’s positivity rates qualify for the least-restrictive yellow tier of the state system, but the case counts are still in the orange tier.

A graduation into the yellow tier requires that the case rate must get below 2 per 100,000 population.

Another 13,473 COVID-19 tests were logged April 21 for a total of 3,568,067.

The two additional deaths logged Wednesday raised the death toll in December to 930 and 1,508 in January. Those were the deadliest months since the pandemic began, with fatalities fueled by holiday activities.

The death toll so far in April is seven. The death toll for March stands at 169, and 569 for February.

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