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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’s COVID-19-related death rate continued to increase, and the county’s hospitalizations and intensive care units again hit record numbers as the winter coronavirus surge maintained its ferocity into 2021 with the Orange County Health Care Agency’s reported numbers on Friday, Jan. 8.

Orange County reported 3,544 new COVID-19 cases and 26 new coronavirus-related deaths on Friday, which adds up to 24,094 cases and 123 deaths in the last seven days.

Dana Point recorded five coronavirus-related deaths this week, San Juan Capistrano recorded three and San Clemente recorded one.

Over the last 30 days, there have been 88,151 cases and 365 deaths in Orange County. In the 30 days previous to that, there were 30,563 cases and 124 deaths, which means there were 57,588 more cases over the last 30 days than the previous and 241 more deaths. The difference in deaths over each of the previous 30-day periods has grown as the death rate continues to increase. The difference between the two periods was 241 more this week, 205 more last week and 88 more three weeks ago.

Cumulatively, there have been 181,277 cases and 1,998 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.

In San Clemente this week, a new COVID-19 drive-thru and walk-up testing center opened up at the Outlets at San Clemente. Through a joint endeavor with the Outlets, Capstone Clinical Laboratories is now offering tests Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., with no appointment necessary.

The tests are free for those with valid ID and insurance, or $99 for those without insurance, according to the Outlets. The testing site is located at the northern entrance of the shopping center, in the parking lot across from the Chick-Fil-A.

Test results are available within 24 to 48 hours, according to the Outlets. For inquiries and additional information, contact Capstone by phone at 949.431.5626 or emailing registration@capstoneclinicallabs.com.

There were 2,259 hospitalizations reported by the county on Friday, which most since the start of the pandemic. Friday was the fifth straight day of record numbers, with a new record high for county COVID hospitalizations 33 of the past 37 days. Friday’s total was an increase of 202 cases from a week ago and 1,285 from 30 days ago. The county reported a 3.2% rise in hospitalizations over the last three days.

Orange County reported 514 ICU patients as of Friday, which is the most since the start of the pandemic, an increase of 8 from a week ago and double the amount of 257 from 30 days ago. Friday’s total was the first new high since Jan. 1, which was the 23rd straight day of pandemic-high ICU patient totals. The county’s hospitals remained at a 0% adjusted capacity of the ICU beds currently available. There are 4.5% of total ICU beds available. There are 34% of ventilators available.

The Southern California region also remained at 0% adjusted available ICU capacity this week. There are 7.7% of total ICU beds available in the region. With under 15% adjusted ICU capacity available, Southern California has been under a stay-at-home order since Dec. 6. The order’s initial three-week period passed on Dec. 27, and the state now provides daily updates on its four-week projected available ICU capacity. Once the region is projected above the 15% threshold, the stay-at-home order will be lifted.

As of Thursday, the four-week projection does not meet the criteria to exit the order.

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 (3.5%) and Greater Sacramento (9.2%) are under regional stay-at-home orders. Northern California (25.4%) is the only region not under the order.

The county’s most recently reported seven-day average of new cases from Dec. 30 is 2,878 new cases per day, which is down from the highest of the pandemic on Dec. 19 of 3,357 and 310 less than reported a week ago with 3,188 per day on average from Dec. 23. 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 77,990 cases where race or ethnicity is not available or provided, but of the cases where race or ethnicity is known, 43.57% are Hispanic or Latino, 25.85% are white, 16.25% are listed as other, 10.89% are Asian and 1.32% are Black.

Of the 1,998 total deaths, 664 are aged 85 or older, 452 are aged 75-84, 382 are aged 65-74, 275 are aged 55-64, 146 are aged 45-54, 46 are aged 35-44, 27 are aged 25-34, five are aged 18-24 and one is aged under 17. Of the total deaths, 826 are Hispanic or Latino, 680 are white, 368 are Asian and 24 are Black.

The county’s reported estimated amount of recoveries stands at 109,904 cases. The estimated recoveries are based on the previous 28-day’s cumulative case count.

Over the last 30 days, there have been 46,502 recoveries, which is much more than the 30 days prior to that at 8,339.

Orange County remained deep 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, Jan. 5. The county’s daily new cases per 100,000 (67.8) and countywide testing positivity (17.1%) continued to rise even higher into purple levels, while the health equity positivity rate (23.4%) saw a small decrease.

COVID-19 in South OC

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

San Clemente has 1,945 total cases and 14 total deaths, with 275 cases and one death in the last week. The city recorded 881 cases and two deaths in the last 30 days, an increase from the 435 cases and the same as the two deaths of the 30 days previous to that.

San Juan Capistrano has 1,942 total cases and 22 total deaths, with 278 cases and three deaths in the last week. The city has recorded 927 cases and five deaths in the last 30 days, an increase from the 338 cases and the two deaths of the 30 days previous to that.

Dana Point has 987 total cases and 10 total deaths, with 121 cases and five deaths in the last week. The city recorded 464 cases and six deaths in the last 30 days, an increase from the 203 cases and no deaths of the 30 days previous to that.

Rancho Mission Viejo has 219 total cases and less than five total deaths, with 32 cases in the last week. The city recorded 103 cases in the last 30 days, an increase from the 36 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 Jan. 2, there was a cumulative total of 1,668 cases in Orange County schools with 4 reported over the winter break from Dec. 20-Jan. 2 and 91 from Dec. 13-19. Of the 1,668 total cases, there were 998 student cases, 389 teacher cases and 281 cases among other staff. As of Jan. 2, there were 901 cases in elementary and middle schools, 448 cases in high schools, 59 cases in combined K-12 schools and 260 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, Vista Del Mar Middle School has two cases

In Dana Point, Dana Hills High School has one case.

In San Juan Capistrano, San Juan Elementary School and San Juan Hills High School each have one case.

In schools whose boundaries include those cities, Moulton Elementary School and Fred Newhart Middle School each have one case.

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