SANTA ANA (CNS) — Orange County Wednesday reported 31 more COVID-19 fatalities and 3,847 new cases as officials opened up the county's first mega- vaccination site at Disneyland in Anaheim.
The death toll now stands at 2,179. Of the deaths reported Wednesday, six were skilled nursing facility residents and six were assisted living facility residents. Since the pandemic began, 707 were skilled nursing facility residents and 242 were assisted living facility residents.
The death reports are staggered and sometimes take weeks to be logged, but December was the deadliest month for the county since the pandemic began, with 468 fatalities reported so far.
That tops the summer peak, when 379 died in July and 367 in August, according to Orange County Health Care Agency statistics. The deadliest day so far since the pandemic began was Dec. 22, when 27 died.
The cumulative case count stands at 199,532.
The number of patients hospitalized with coronavirus dipped from 2,200 Tuesday to 2,180 Wednesday. The number of intensive-care-unit patients rose from 535 Tuesday to 544 Wednesday, just short of Sunday's record of 547.
"Staffing is becoming more and more of a critical issue," Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett said of hospitals. County officials have made pleas to the state to help find more nurses and doctors to staff hospital beds.
Since Sunday, the county has reported 138 deaths. Last week, the county reported 140 deaths.
There were 16,401 tests reported Tuesday, raising the cumulative total to 2,300,064, according to the OCHCA.
Orange County's adjusted daily case rate per 100,000 — released on Tuesdays — increased to 78.8 from 67.8 last week. The positivity rate rose from 17.1% to 19.5%.
The county's Health Equity Quartile Positivity Rate, which measures the cases in highly affected, needier parts of the county, rose to 24.2% from 23.4% last week.
Dr. Clayton Chau, the county's chief health officer and HCA director, said officials surveyed patients in 13 hospitals and found that 54% of the hospitalized COVID-19 patients are 61 and older and 71% in ICU are 61 and older. Nearly 72% of those in ICU on a ventilator are 61 and older, he added.
"If we don't stop this it will continue to be so," Chau said of the high percentages of seniors afflicted with coronavirus.
"Seventy-five percent of those who have died in Orange County are also seniors, aged 65 or over," Chau said. "I'm sorry, but we need to do something fast in our community. This is not just about reopening our economy — that's important — but it is about taking care of our vulnerable community. Our seniors are dying and we need to do everything we can to stop it."
County officials have moved seniors 65 and older to the front of the line for vaccines, Chau said.
The Orange County Board of Supervisors at Tuesday's meeting voted 3-1 in favor of hiring the Idea Hall public-relations firm to help officials convince residents, particularly in poorer neighborhoods, of the wisdom of getting vaccinated. Officials are concerned about opposition to vaccines affecting the ability to reach herd immunity.
Supervisor Don Wagner voted against the contract, arguing that he wanted to wait at least until a detailed budget could be worked up for the campaign. He also argued that the county's public information officers were capable of doing the job for no extra money.
Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett, however, said she did not want to wait any longer and argued that county officials are already stretched thin and need extra help. Chau and Orange County CEO Frank Kim echoed that sentiment.
Bartlett also said she felt comfortable going with the Idea Hall firm because of its track record with the county working on its "Be Well" campaign.
The county also has reached a deal to have another super site for vaccines at Knott's Berry Farm, said Supervisor Doug Chaffee, who was voted in as vice chairman on Tuesday. Officials are working on setting up a vaccination super site at the Orange County Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa as well, Chaffee said.
Ultimately, the county is aiming to have five regional super sites.
"We don't have enough vaccine to open another one," Chaffee said of opening a second super site. "We can't open up too much until we have the quantity of vaccine we need."
Officials held a news conference Wednesday to open up the vaccine distribution site at Disneyland.
Multiple mobile sites are operating throughout the county, with officials currently working to vaccinate the elderly in skilled nursing facilities and assisted living facilities, Chaffee said.
With another shipment of vaccines on Monday the county has 40,000 doses in storage, Kim said. The county is expecting 35,000 more doses next week, Chau said.
County officials are also seeking volunteers to help with a range of services from traffic control to computer registrations, Chaffee said. Volunteers can register at volunteers.oneoc.org/special-event/a182I000007VTf2.
Sheriff's officials reported an uptick in the number of Orange County Jail inmates infected with coronavirus from 274 on Tuesday to 275 Wednesday. Authorities are awaiting results from 676 tests, and three inmates are hospitalized, down from five on Tuesday.
Outbreaks — defined as two more cases in the past two weeks — have been plaguing skilled nursing and elderly assisted living facilities. As of Wednesday, 37 skilled nursing facilities have outbreaks and 46 assisted living facilities are dealing with outbreaks.
The average time to drop off patients from ambulances stands at 45 minutes and 26 seconds 90 percent of the time.
Fairview Developmental Center is housing a dozen Orange County coronavirus patients and six from Los Angeles County.
The county's state-adjusted ICU bed availability remains at zero, and the unadjusted figure increased from 6.4% Tuesday to 6.9%. The state created the adjusted metric to reflect the difference in beds available for COVID-19 patients and non-coronavirus patients.
The Southern California region is at zero ICU availability.
The county has 35% of its ventilators available.