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Picket Fence Media will post weekly updates on the compilation of COVID-19 statistics and information, which is reported daily by the Orange County Health Care Agency.

Compiled by Zach Cavanagh

Orange County and the Southern California region both hit and stayed at 0% adjusted available ICU capacity this week, and the Orange County Health Care Agency reported its 16th straight day of pandemic-high hospitalizations and ninth straight day of pandemic-high ICU patients as the winter coronavirus surge continued on Friday, Dec. 18.

There were 1,557 hospitalizations reported by the county on Friday, which is an increase of 435 cases from a week ago and 1,266 from 30 days ago. The county reported a 17.2% rise in hospitalizations over the last three days.

Orange County reported 358 ICU patients as of Friday, which is an increase of 93 from a week ago and 268 from 30 days ago. The previous record before this continued rise was 245 on July 15. The county’s hospitals hit 0% adjusted capacity of the ICU beds currently available on Monday, again on Wednesday and stayed at that level through Friday. There are 9.2%% of total ICU beds available. There are 51% of ventilators available.

The Southern California region hit 0% adjusted available ICU capacity on Thursday and remained there on Friday. There are 10.7% of total ICU beds available in the region. With under 15% adjusted ICU capacity available, Southern California has been on three-week stay-at-home order since Dec. 6. If the region is projected to still be under 15% after the order is scheduled to end on Dec. 27, the order will be extended another three weeks.

The ICU capacity available is being reported with adjusted and unadjusted numbers. According to the OCHCA, the adjusted number is being used “to preserve the capacity of the ICU to also treat non-COVID-19 conditions. …  If a disproportionate number of ICU beds are being utilized to treat COVID-19 patients, then patients with non-COVID medical issues may not be receiving or be able to receive the level of care they need.”

If a region is using more than 30% of its ICU beds for COVID-19 patients, an extra 0.5% is removed in the adjusted capacity for every 1% over that 30% threshold to preserve those necessary resources and beds.

Orange County is in the Southern California region which includes the counties of Imperial, Inyo, Los Angeles, Mono, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura. Southern California (0%), the San Joaquin Valley (0%), the Bay Area (12.8%) and Greater Sacramento (14.5%) are under regional stay-at-home orders. Northern California (21%) is the only region not under the order.

Orange County reported 2,594 new COVID-19 cases and three new coronavirus-related deaths on Friday, which adds up to 19,075 cases and 72 deaths in the last seven days.

Over the last 30 days, there have been 49,792 cases and 206 deaths in Orange County. In the 30 days previous to that, there were 9,514 cases and 118 deaths, which means there were 40,278 more cases over the last 30 days than the previous and 88 more deaths. The difference in deaths over each of the previous 30-day periods has flipped as the death rate has increased. While the difference between the two periods was 88 more this week, it was 25 fewer than the previous 30-day period last week, 92 fewer two weeks ago and 141 fewer the week before.

Cumulatively, there have been 116,377 cases and 1,734 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.

The county’s most recently reported seven-day average of new cases from Dec. 5 is 1,892 new cases per day, which is the highest of the pandemic and 835 more than reported a week ago with 1,057 per day on average from Nov. 28. The previous record before this latest rise was 1,132 cases per day on average on Nov. 25. The seven-day case average is reported on a 14-day lag.

In Orange County, there are 48,000 cases where race or ethnicity is not available or provided, but of the cases where race or ethnicity is known, 46.02% are Hispanic or Latino, 26.07% are white, 14.11% are listed as other, 10.25% are Asian and 1.31% are Black.

Of the 1,734 total deaths, 580 are aged 85 or older, 380 are aged 75-84, 338 are aged 65-74, 238 are aged 55-64, 127 are aged 45-54, 42 are aged 35-44, 24 are aged 25-34, four are aged 18-24 and one is aged under 17. Of the total deaths, 733 are Hispanic or Latino, 594 are white, 310 are Asian and 23 are Black.

The county’s reported estimated amount of recoveries stands at 71,216 cases. The estimated recoveries are based on the previous 28-day’s cumulative case count.

Over the last 30 days, there have been 14,122 recoveries, which is much more than the 30 days prior to that at 8,046.

Orange County remained in the state’s purple “substantial” tier – the highest risk level of the state’s four-tiered, color-coded coronavirus monitoring system – in the state’s tier update on Tuesday, Dec. 8. The county’s daily new cases per 100,000 (42.7), countywide testing positivity (13.2%) and health equity positivity rate (18.8%) continued to rise higher into purple levels.

COVID-19 in South OC

Locally in South Orange County, every community continued to see a sharp rise in cases.

San Clemente has 1,285 total cases and 13 total deaths, with 176 cases and no deaths in the last week. The city recorded 601 cases and three deaths in the last 30 days, an increase from the 113 cases and decrease from the four deaths of the 30 days previous to that.

San Juan Capistrano has 1,215 total cases and 18 total deaths, with 176 cases and one death removed in the last week. The city has recorded 511 cases and two deaths in the last 30 days, an increase from the 101 cases and the same as the two deaths of the 30 days previous to that.

Dana Point has 638 total cases and four total deaths, with 112 cases and no deaths in the last week. The city recorded 304 cases and no deaths in the last 30 days, an increase from the 29 cases and a decrease from one death of the 30 days previous to that.

Rancho Mission Viejo has 146 total cases and less than five total deaths, with 25 cases in the last week. The city recorded 60 cases in the last 30 days, an increase from the 13 cases of the 30 days previous to that. As unincorporated land with under 25,000 residents, the exact death total will not be reported for Rancho Mission Viejo until it reaches five, as it was for cases.

COVID-19 in Schools

Orange County continued to update school cases, which saw a large jump as data from earlier weeks was updated.

From Aug. 16 to Dec. 12, there was a cumulative total of 1,071 cases in Orange County schools with 23 reported Dec. 6-12 and 172 from Nov. 29-Dec.5. Of the 810 total cases, there were 684 student cases, 215 teacher cases and 175 cases among other staff. As of Dec. 12, there were 559 cases in elementary and middle schools, 286 cases in high schools, 38 cases in combined K-12 schools and 188 cases in colleges, universities and vocational schools.

The Capistrano Unified School District also recently began reporting cases in each of its schools to an online dashboard. CUSD’s dashboard lists “active” cases on its dashboard, with the case remaining on the dashboard for 14 days from initial symptoms or test date.

In San Clemente, Truman Benedict Elementary School has four cases, Las Palmas Elementary School has two cases, Vista Del Mar Elementary School and Shorecliffs Middle School each have one case, Bernice Ayer Middle School has three cases and San Clemente High School has one case.

In Dana Point, Palisades Elementary School has three cases, R.H. Dana Elementary School has one case and Dana Hills High School has five cases.

In San Juan Capistrano, San Juan Elementary School has four cases, Ambuehl Elementary School has three cases, Kinoshita Elementary School and Esencia K-8 and Marco Forster Middle School each have two cases and San Juan Hills High School has four cases.

In schools whose boundaries include those cities, Niguel Hills Middle School, Fred Newhart Middle School and Tesoro High School each have two cases and Viejo Elementary School and Capistrano Valley High School each have one case.

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