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By Zach Cavanagh

As the state edged up to 5 million coronavirus vaccine doses administered, the COVID-19-related death rate in the state and Orange County finally turned to a decreasing number to match the continued considerable drops in case rate, transmission rate and hospitalizations in the state’s reported numbers on Tuesday, Feb. 9.

The state reported it had administered 4.9 million vaccine doses with 408,645 total in Orange County as of Tuesday, Feb. 9. Orange County, which reports its vaccine numbers weekly on Thursday, said it had administered 196,360 first doses and 91,978 second doses as of Feb. 2.

For the first time in nearly two months, the death rate statewide and locally has finally taken a decrease.

Statewide, the 14-day daily new death average has gone down 2.7% in the last 14 days from an average 510.0 deaths per day to 496.4. Last week, the state average had increased 9.4% in the previous 14 days. In Orange County, the 14-day daily average has gone up by 0.3% in the last 14 days from an average 44.2 deaths per day to 43.9. Last week, the county average had increased 105.5% in the previous 14 days.

In the state’s four-tiered, color-coded coronavirus monitoring system, Orange County’s numbers continued to improve in the state’s weekly tier update on Tuesday, Feb. 9, but the county remained but the county remained high in the highest-risk purple “widespread” tier.

Daily new cases per 100,000 residents continued to dip as the metric dropped to an adjusted 29.4 daily new cases per 100,000, down from the 39.0 new cases last week and the 46.6 of two weeks ago. The threshold for the purple tier is 7.0.

The state reports an adjusted case rate, which is adjusted for the volume of testing. The unadjusted rate is 29.7 daily new cases per 100,000, down from 43.1 last week and from 66.1 two weeks ago.

The county saw a drop in its testing positivity, as the countywide number dipped to 9.4% from last week’s 10.9%. The metric was at 12.9% two weeks ago. The threshold for the purple tier is 8%.

The county’s health equity positivity rate was reported at 12.4%, down from last week’s 13.9% and the 16.6% of two weeks ago. The threshold for the purple tier is 8%. The health equity rate measures the testing positivity in a county’s low-income and more racially diverse neighborhoods.

To move back down to the red “substantial” tier, Orange County would need to have its metrics at red levels for two consecutive weeks. The red tier requires the case rate to sit between 4.0 and 7.0, the testing positivity between 5.0% and 8.0% and the health equity rate between 5.3% and 8.0%.

Where California’s counties stand in the state’s four-tiered, color-coded coronavirus monitoring system as of Feb 9. Graphic: California Department of Public Health

There are still 53 counties in the purple tier, two in the red tier, and three counties in the orange “moderate” tier. One county (Del Norte) dropped from purple to red.

Statewide, the testing positivity continues its sharp drop as well with a 5.6% 14-day testing positivity rate in California, the state’s lowest number since Nov. 22. It’s a decrease from last week’s 7.2% 14-day average and the 9% of two weeks ago.

Those dropping positivity rates are good news for the state’s hospital system, for which the outlook continues to improve.

The Southern California region is now at an adjusted 10.6% available ICU capacity. Based on the state’s four-week projection model, Southern California is set to be at 46.3% ICU availability on March 8.

Hospitalizations again saw even larger decreases than the week before with a 35.5% decrease statewide over the last 14 days, and an 25.5% decrease in ICU patients over the last 14 days. California has its lowest number of hospitalizations since Dec. 7 and lowest number of ICU patients since Dec. 14.

As of Tuesday, Orange County hospitalizations had decreased 36.9% in the last 14 days, and ICU patients decreased 25.9% over the last 14 days. The county is at its lowest number of hospitalizations since Dec. 9 and lowest number of ICU patients since Dec. 16

Nationally, the United States now tops 27 million coronavirus cases. There have been 465,072 deaths in the United States, and the national seven-day average testing positivity is at 6.89%, down from 7.97% last week and 9.08% two weeks ago. The state’s total new cases and case averages continue to drop precipitously. The 14-day rolling average of daily new cases dropped to 14,386.1 on Monday, Feb. 8, way down from 19,557.3 on Monday, Feb. 1.

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