SANTA ANA (CNS) — Orange County Thursday reported 28 new COVID-19 infections, as hospitalization rates continued to drop to the lowest numbers since the first couple of months of the pandemic.
Hospitalizations dropped from 66 on Wednesday to 61, though the number of intensive care unit patients ticked up from 8 to 18.
"The numbers are generally looking amazing," Andrew Noymer, a UC Irvine professor of population health and disease prevention, told City News Service.
"It's cyclical, but the cycles are trending downward," Noymer said of hospitalizations and ICU numbers.
The new infections increased the cumulative case number to 255,109. One additional fatality was reported, raising the cumulative death toll to 5,056.
That death occurred Jan. 5, the deadliest day of the pandemic, raising the death toll on just that day to 70. The death toll so far this month stands at 5, and 41 for last month.
The death tolls for March and February are 181 and 581, respectively. The death toll in January is now 1,546. The second-deadliest month was December, with 936 fatalities.
Another 8,664 COVID-19 tests were reported Thursday, bringing the county's total to 3,896,603.
According to the weekly state data released every Tuesday, the average for the county's daily case rate per 100,000 residents dropped from 1.5 to 1.3. The overall test positivity rate improved from 0.9% to 0.8%, and the county's Health Equity Quartile rate, which measures positivity in hot spots in disadvantaged communities, declined from 0.9% to 0.7%.
The county public health officer, Dr. Clayton Chau, who also is director of the Orange County Health Care Agency, said the county has administered more than three million doses of vaccines. At least 1.6 million people have received one dose and 1.3 million are fully vaccinated, he said.
About 360,000 residents are awaiting a second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, Chau said. Since residents 12 and older can now get a shot, there are 2.7 million residents eligible for a vaccine, he said.
Chau said anyone who has recovered from COVID-19 is still recommended to get a shot because studies show that vaccinated people have six times more antibodies.
The county is aiming to hold 30 mobile vaccination clinics as the mass vaccination sites are shut down, he said.
"We're reaching the point where people will get the vaccine if we make it more convenient," Chau said Tuesday.
Noymer praised the mobile clinics.
"Mobile clinics is a good idea," he said. "Honestly, anything that works. People keep saying we're 60% vaccinated, but the remaining 40% is going to be way harder ... The problem is we're also approaching the ceiling, so the people who have not gotten vaccinated yet really require more persuasion."
Noymer also hailed the idea of a lottery as incentive to get inoculated.
"It's a good move to do a lottery," Noymer told CNS. "It will increase participation and it will mean the fall wave is going to be a mild wave as opposed to what we had in January."
Noymer predicts the summer months will be "totally manageable."
Orange County last week officially entered the least-restrictive yellow tier of the reopening blueprint, which allows for greater attendance for many businesses such as movie theaters and gyms, while museums, zoos and aquariums can open at full capacity. For the first time, bars and distilleries can open indoors. Theme parks such as Disneyland can expand attendance.
The Discovery Cube of Orange County children's museum will reopen on Friday.