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Picket Fence Media will post weekly updates on the compilation of COVID-19 statistics and information, which is reported daily by the Orange County Health Care Agency.

Compiled by Zach Cavanagh

The Orange County Health Care Agency reported its second straight day of pandemic-high hospitalizations as the winter coronavirus surge continued on Friday, Dec. 4.

There were 746 hospitalizations reported by the county on Friday, which is an increase of 240 cases from just a week ago. Friday’s number of hospitalizations is the highest number recorded over the course of the coronavirus pandemic. Thursday’s total of 735 surpassed the previous high set on 722 on July 14. The county reported a 17.3% rise in hospitalizations over the last three days.

Orange County reported 195 ICU patients as of Friday, which is an increase of 56 from a week ago. The county has not been at that level since July 28 with 204 ICU cases. The record is 245 on July 15. In the county’s hospitals, there are 20% of the ICU beds currently available and 55% of ventilators available.

On Thursday, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced potential regional stay-at-home orders for regions whose available ICU capacities fall under 15%. Orange County is in the Southern California region which includes the counties of Imperial, Inyo, Los Angeles, Mono, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura.

Orange County reported 1,234 new COVID-19 cases and 17 new coronavirus-related deaths on Friday, which adds up to 7,792 cases and 26 deaths in the last seven days.

Over the last 30 days, there have been 22,046 cases and 112 deaths in Orange County. In the 30 days previous to that, there were 6,081 cases and 204 deaths, which means there were 15,965 more cases over the last 30 days than the previous, but 92 fewer deaths. Death rates had declined into November, but as hospitalizations have surged, the death rate has begun to tick back up.

“We’ve seen death rate (in the state) increase significantly over the last number of weeks,” Newsom said on Thursday. “A month ago, on Nov. 2, we reported a tragic loss of 14 lives related to this pandemic. In the last 24 hours, similar to the previous 24 hours, we’ve reported back-to-back days with 113 deaths. Just in the last 14 days, close to 1,000 Californians have lost their lives due to COVID-19.”

Cumulatively, there have been 82,887 cases and 1,603 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.

The county’s most recently reported seven-day average of new cases from Nov. 21 is 957 new cases per day, which is the highest of the pandemic and 453 more than reported a week ago with 504 per day on average from Nov. 14. The previous record was 874 cases per day on average on June 30. The seven-day case average is reported on a 14-day lag.

There are 32,668 cases where race or ethnicity is not available or provided, but of the cases where race or ethnicity is known, 48% are Hispanic or Latino, 26.19% are white, 12.87% are listed as other, 9.33% are Asian and 1.3% are Black.

Of the 1,577 total deaths, 528 are aged 85 or older, 349 are aged 75-84, 314 are aged 65-74, 224 are aged 55-64, 122 are aged 45-54, 39 are aged 35-44, 22 are aged 25-34, four are aged 18-24 and one is aged under 17. Of the total deaths, 683 are Hispanic or Latino, 541 are white, 290 are Asian and 23 are Black.

The county’s reported estimated amount of recoveries stands at 61,500 cases. The estimated recoveries are based on the previous 28-day’s cumulative case count.

Over the last 30 days, there have been 7,330 recoveries, which is much more than the 30 days prior to that at 5,247.

Orange County remained in the state’s purple “substantial” tier – the highest risk level of the state’s four-tiered, color-coded coronavirus monitoring system – in the state’s tier update on Tuesday, Dec. 1. The county’s daily new cases per 100,000 (22.2) continued to rise higher into purple levels. The countywide testing positivity rate (8.8%) jumped up into the purple level. The health equity testing positivity rate was not reported by the state, but the local estimate (13%) was in the purple level.

COVID-19 in South OC

Locally in South Orange County, every community saw a sharp rise in cases.

San Clemente has 937 total cases and 12 total deaths, with 121 cases and one death in the last week. The city recorded 303 cases and three deaths in the last 30 days, an increase from the 90 cases and the same as from the three deaths of the 30 days previous to that.

San Juan Capistrano has 914 total cases and 16 total deaths, with 89 cases and no deaths in the last week. The city has recorded 254 cases and one death in the last 30 days, an increase from the 101 cases and a decrease from the two deaths of the 30 days previous to that.

Dana Point has 461 total cases and four total deaths, with 61 cases and no deaths in the last week. The city recorded 142 cases and no deaths in the last 30 days, an increase from the 37 cases and a decrease from one death of the 30 days previous to that.

Rancho Mission Viejo has 110 total cases and less than five total deaths, with 11 cases in the last week. The city recorded 31 cases in the last 30 days, an increase from the 13 cases of the 30 days previous to that. As unincorporated land with under 25,000 residents, the exact death total will not be reported for Rancho Mission Viejo until it reaches five, as it was for cases.

COVID-19 in Schools

Orange County continued to update school cases, which saw a large jump as data from earlier weeks was updated.

From Aug. 16 to Nov. 28, there was a cumulative total of 675 cases in Orange County schools with only six reported in the partial Thanksgiving week of Nov. 22-28 and 93 from Nov. 15-21. Of the 675 total cases, there were 307 student cases, 127 teacher cases and 241 cases among other staff. As of Nov. 28, there were 363 cases in elementary and middle schools, 158 cases in high schools, 20 cases in combined K-12 schools and 134 cases in colleges, universities and vocational schools.

The Capistrano Unified School District also recently began reporting cases in each of its schools to an online dashboard. CUSD’s dashboard lists “active” cases on its dashboard, with the case remaining on the dashboard for 14 days from initial symptoms or test date.

There are no cases in San Clemente and San Juan Capistrano CUSD schools.

In Dana Point, Palisades Elementary School and Dana Hills High School each have one case.

In schools whose boundaries include those cities, John Malcolm Elementary School, Fred Newhart Middle School, Moulton Elementary School, Viejo Elementary School and Tesoro High School each have one case and Capistrano Valley High School has five cases.

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