SANTA ANA, Calif. (CNS) — Orange County’s hospitals have seen a surge of patients with COVID-19 as positivity rates continue to climb, and nine more fatalities have been logged this month, according to data released Wednesday by the Orange County Health Care Agency.
Hospitalizations of COVID-19-infected patients climbed from 143 last Wednesday to 203 Tuesday, with the number of intensive care unit patients increasing from 29 to 32.
The test positivity rate jumped up from 5.1% to 6.8%, and it increased from 4.7% to 6.8% in the health equity quartile, which measures the communities hardest hit by the pandemic.
The daily case rate per 100,000 increased from 5.3 to 6.7 on a seven-day average with a seven-day lag, and jumped up from 5 to 6.8 in the adjusted daily case rate per 100,000 on a seven-day average with a seven-day lag.
“These are significant increases,” Andrew Noymer, an epidemiologist and UC Irvine professor of population health and disease prevention, told City News Service on Wednesday.
“It’s a little steeper than the ones we’ve been seeing lately,” Noymer added. “It’s not quite as steep as what we saw literally a year ago when Omicron hit the scene, but it’s as steep as what we’ve seen since then.”
The increases appear higher and faster than what was seen in the summer wave, Noymer said.
“It’s not the sky is falling, but it’s worrisome,” Noymer said. “People have to understand hospitalizations are as high now as they were at the end of August. It’s the start of the wave that I always said was coming.”
Anyone planning to attend a Thanksgiving dinner is strongly advised to test beforehand, Noymer said.
“Before is more important than after,” Noymer said. “Test before you go and be willing to eat cup Ramen by yourself while your friends are eating turkey.”
It is difficult to determine just how many are infected, because most people are testing at home if at all, Noymer said.
“It’s hard to compare those testing numbers over a long swath of time,” Noymer said. “Week to week the biases don’t change so much, but over long swaths of time it becomes very hard to know what those numbers mean.”
Children’s Hospital of Orange County officials say their pediatric care centers in Orange and Mission Viejo are still at capacity. Some pediatric patients are being taken to adult hospitals because of the lack of room. The county issued an emergency declaration to draw down more state resources and to allow for flexibility in caring for the pediatric patients.
The surge in patients is due to a rise in RSV, flu and other upper respiratory viruses, officials said.
“The thing about RSV is these are not levels we haven’t seen before,” Noymer said. “But we’re used to seeing them in January of February. The real question is whether they’re going to keep going up or whether everything is just early this year… The answer is nobody knows. But pediatric hospitals are definitely hammered.”
Orange County CEO Frank Kim said not all of the patients hospitalized with COVID-19 were admitted because they have the virus. But he said staff has received data that indicates a wave of flu cases coming earlier than previous years.
The county logged 1,959 new cases of COVID-19, hiking the cumulative to 679,195. Ten more fatalities were logged, increasing the death toll overall to 7,571. Nine of the deaths occurred in November, hiking this month’s death toll to 13. One of the deaths occurred in October, raising that month’s death toll to 59.
The OCHCA reports COVID data every Thursday, but the statistics were released early this week because of the holiday.
Of those hospitalized, 68% are incompletely vaccinated or unvaccinated and 68.4% of the COVID-19 patients in intensive care units are incompletely vaccinated or unvaccinated, the agency said.
The positivity rate for those fully vaccinated with a booster went from 8.1% on Nov. 13 to 9% on Nov. 20. For those vaccinated with no booster, the rate went from 3.8% to 5.2%. For those not vaccinated, the rate went from 7.9% to 11.9%.
The number of residents fully vaccinated is at 2,359,233 as of this week. The number of residents who have received at least one dose is 217,539. The number of booster shots administered increased from 1,415,511 to 1,418,753.
The number of children up to 4 years old who have received at least one dose inched up from 16,076 to 16,358, with 9,320 fully vaccinated. Just 5% of the county’s population in the age group is fully vaccinated.
For 5- to 11-year-old children, 97,056 are fully vaccinated, about 36.6% of the age group. In the 12-to-17 age group, 69.8% are fully vaccinated.