SANTA ANA, Calif. (CNS) — Orange County's COVID-19 hospitalizations and case rates remained stable Wednesday, but January's death toll continued to rise as 60 more COVID-related fatalities were reported.
All but four of the 60 deaths reported Wednesday occurred in January, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency. The other four occurred this month, with three on Feb. 1 and one the next day.
January's death toll increased to 287. The last time the county had a month reach that high a number was March 2021, with 202 fatalities.
Of those who have died in January and February, 180 were not vaccinated, 82 were fully vaccinated with no booster shot and 29 were vaccinated with a booster, said Dr. Regina Chinsio-Kwong, the county's deputy health officer.
Of those with three shots, 27 were 65 and older, she told reporters on a weekly media call. One was in the 55 to 64 age range and the other was 45 to 55, she said.
Chinsio-Kwong said she expects the death toll from the omicron variant-driven surge to keep rising. She said the fatalities will continue to roll in over the next two months with "high death numbers."
Most of the victims are unvaccinated and those who were inoculated tend to be elderly and have underlying health issues, she said.
The number of COVID-positive patients in Orange County hospitals dropped from 619 on Tuesday to 617, with the number of those patients in intensive care ticking down from 125 to 124.
The county had 21% of its ICU beds available and 59.1% of its ventilators as of Wednesday. Local health officials become concerned when the level of ICU beds falls below 20%.
Of those hospitalized, 84% are unvaccinated and 87% in ICU are not inoculated, the OCHCA said.
The county also reported 1,414 new positive COVID tests Wednesday, raising the cumulative total to 528,794 since the pandemic began. The county's cumulative death toll increased to 6,265.
Two of the fatalities logged Wednesday were skilled nursing facility residents and one was an assisted living facility resident, raising the death tolls in those categories to 1,243 and 656, respectively.
Outbreaks — defined as three or more infected residents — decreased from 36 to 31 at assisted living facilities from Feb. 2-7, the most recent data available, and ticked up from 24 to 25 for skilled nursing facilities.
The county's jails had 76 infected inmates Wednesday, up from 71 as of Tuesday, with the results of 149 tests pending.
The county's adjusted daily new case rate per 100,000 residents dropped from 65.9 on Monday to 58.2 on Tuesday. The testing positivity rate dropped from 11.8% to 11.3% and fell from 10.2% to 9.5% in the health equity quartile, which measures underserved communities hardest hit by the pandemic.
The case rate per 100,000 people decreased from 72.6 on Jan. 22 to 38.5 on Jan. 29 for residents who were fully vaccinated with a booster shot; from 134.8 to 62 for those fully vaccinated with no booster; and 207.2 to 92.9 for those not fully vaccinated.
The deadliest days of the pandemic last month were Jan. 10 and Jan. 11 with 14 fatalities on each day. That tops the deadliest day during the summer surge by one. The deadliest day during the pandemic was Jan. 2, 2021, when 71 people died from COVID-related causes in Orange County.
December's death toll stands at 103, November's at 112 and October's at 135.
September's death toll stands at 198, while August's remained at 184.
In contrast, the death toll before the delta variant fueled a late- summer surge was 31 in July, 20 in June, 26 in May, 47 in April, 202 in March and 620 for February.
January 2021 remains the deadliest month of the pandemic, with a death toll of 1,598, ahead of December 2020, the next-deadliest, with 985 people lost to the virus.