SANTA ANA, Calif. (CNS) — Orange County's COVID-19 hospitalizations remained above 200 patients Friday, while three more fatalities were logged, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency.
Hospitalizations ticked down from 215 Thursday to 212, with the number of intensive care unit patients increasing from 51 to 54.
Orange County has 21.9% of its intensive care unit beds available and 68% of its ventilators.
The hospital patient levels are part of a new normal, Andrew Noymer, an epidemiologist and UC Irvine professor of population health and disease prevention, told City News Service Friday.
"We're in a new normal now where we're right in the midst of a transition to endemicity," Noymer said. "We're moving out of the epidemic phase where everything is chaotic and moving to the epidemic phase where it's more like the flu."
He added, "200 people hospitalized is going to be the new normal for some time for COVID for Orange County. ... But now we're at 212, so is that the start of a winter wave or is that just a variation? Well, guess what? Ask me again in a week. There's going to be more COVID before all is said and done and it's just something we'll have to get used to."
Noymer said the inoculation of kids ages 5 to 11 will have an "indirect" impact on the pandemic.
"It's the right thing to do, but I don't think we'll see an immediate impact" on the rate of infections, Noymer said. "But I'm not expecting a huge decline in cases next week. It's more complicated than that."
The county added 383 more infections Friday, raising the cumulative pandemic number to 306,657, and logged three more fatalities, hiking the overall death toll to 5,615.
The number of fully vaccinated residents in Orange County increased from 2,177,053 last Thursday to 2,190,754 this week.
That number includes an increase from 2,032,863 to 2,045,291 residents who have received the two-dose regimen of vaccines from Pfizer or Moderna. The number of residents receiving the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine increased from 144,190 to 145,463.
There are 185,936 residents who have received one dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.
The top providers of vaccines are the OCHCA at 26%, CVS at 19%, Walgreens at 6%, Kaiser Permanente at 5%, UC Irvine Health at 3%; Walmart at 2%, Safeway, Vons and Pavilions at 1%; Families Together of Orange County at 1%, and multiple others also at 1%.
Orange County's weekly averages for COVID-19 cases and positivity rates ticked up this week after several weeks of gradual decline, according to data released Tuesday by the OCHCA.
The county's weekly COVID-19 case rate per 100,000 residents increased from 6 to 7.2, while the test-positivity rate ticked up from 2.3% to 2.5%. The county's Health Equity Quartile positivity rate — which measures progress in low-income communities — inched up from 2.3% to 2.4%.
The case rate among the unvaccinated has seen a marked increase, and a slight increase among the vaccinated has also been detected, according to the OCHCA.
The case rate per 100,000 unvaccinated residents was 15.7 as of Oct. 23 and rose to 17.5 as of Oct. 30, the latest data available. For fully vaccinated residents, it was 3.4 per 100,000 residents by Oct. 23 and 3.6 as of Oct. 30.
Two of the three deaths logged Friday occurred in October, raising last month's death toll to 61. One happened in August.
September's death toll stands at 167, close behind August's toll of 173.
In contrast, the death toll before the more contagious delta variant-fueled surge was 29 in July, 19 for June, 26 for May, 46 for April, 200 for March, 615 for February, 1,585 for January — the deadliest month of the pandemic — and 977 for December, the next-deadliest.