SANTA ANA, Calif. (CNS) — Orange County Thursday reported 43 more COVID-19 infections and a decline in hospitalization rates.
Hospitalizations dropped from 54 on Wednesday to 50 on Thursday, with the number of patients in intensive care decreasing from 13 to eight.
The county logged another fatality, which occurred in June, raising this month's death toll to three.
The death toll for May is 20; 40 in April; 198 in March; 608 in February; 1,554 in January, the deadliest month of the pandemic, and 966 in December, the next deadliest.
The additional infections reported Thursday raised the cumulative number of OC cases since the start of the pandemic to 255,771.
The case rate as of Wednesday in the county was 0.9 per 100,000 residents, and the overall positivity rate was 0.6%, according to Orange County CEO Frank Kim.
"Since the middle of May, the case rate has been 1.3 to 0.7, so it goes up or down one-tenth of a point day-to-day — that's pretty consistent," Kim told City News Service on Wednesday. "Hopefully, we don't see a spike with the reopenings."
County officials have been keeping an eye on Cal-OSHA and its workplace rules governing mask requirements among employees, Kim said. The state agency on Thursday adopted a plan that would generally allow vaccinated workers to skip wearing a mask but require that a face covering be worn by the unvaccinated.
Kim met for about an hour Wednesday with department heads to go over the workplace rules and how to head off any harassment based on face coverings.
"It's important to note that if any employees, because of their own situation, may continue wearing a mask we need to protect those employees from harassment," he said. "Some people will want to be more cautious."
Andrew Noymer, a UC Irvine professor of population health and disease prevention, said Cal-OSHA could do a better job of explaining what it intends to do.
"There hasn't been a lot of clear communication," Noymer said Thursday. "What we need is a weekly digest in plain English what the current policies are from Cal-OSHA."
What happens now hardly matters, though, Noymer said.
"From an epidemiological perspective, it doesn't matter what people do over the summer because the transmission is so low," Noymer said. "What will matter is when the fall comes or when the Delta variant really takes off, whichever comes first and then all of a sudden it really matters again."
According to weekly state data released every Tuesday, the county's average daily new case rate per 100,000 residents remained at 0.8, the same as last week, while the overall test positivity rate ticked down from 0.7% to 0.6%. The county's Health Equity Quartile rate, which measures positivity in hot spots in disadvantaged communities, remained at 0.8%. That would have kept the county in the least restrictive yellow tier, but that system has ended with the state's reopening on Tuesday.
Kim said he expects the county and state to continue providing weekly averages. Starting July 1, the county will provide weekly updates on COVID-19 statistics instead of weekdays as is the case now. County officials recently stopped updating their website on weekends.
While most of the state's COVID-19 restrictions were lifted at 12:01 Tuesday morning, Gov. Gavin Newsom nonetheless warned the virus is still active — and that mask-wearing will continue to be a reality for non-vaccinated residents, at businesses that opt to require them and for people who simply feel safer wearing them.