Orange County Hits Another COVID-19 Hospitalization Record With First Doses Of Vaccine Weeks Away

Orange County COVID-19 hospitalizations continued to climb on Tuesday, with 69 more patients reported.

The county has reached another record-high of 946 hospitalized patients — with 235 in intensive care.

Another 1,671 cases were also reported, raising the cumulative total to 90,513. No new virus-related fatalities were reported, so the death toll remains at 1,633.

ICU bed availability plummeted from 18% on Monday to 13% on Tuesday, but the county held onto its 53% of available ventilators.

The last time the county’s intensive care unit beds were that full was on July 22 when there were 233 patients.

Southern California, which is now under a regional stay-at-home order, is reported a cumulative ICU availability of 10.1%.

Orange County’s adjusted daily case rate per 100,000 rose on Tuesday to 30.3, up from 22.2 last week with the positivity rate going up from 8.8% to 10.6%.

At Tuesday’s board of supervisors meeting, 64 residents signed up to comment, and most pleaded with the county to ignore the regional stay-at-home order.

Supervisor Andrew Do, the vice chairman of the board, said, “We plow the same field over and over and I still see the misperception in the community” about the authority of the county when it comes to the state

Dr. Clayton Chau, the county’s chief health officer and director of the HCA, reminded residents that the county cannot defy these orders.

“I am the extension of the California Department of Public Health, so any guidance coming down from the California Department of Public Health I must follow,” Chau told the board. “I can be stricter in terms of issuing guidance, but I cannot be more relaxed than the state.”

Chau also told supervisors that the county is expecting about 25,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine from the first round that is being distributed nationwide.

Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach has just installed its ultra cold freezer necessary to store the vaccines.

“The public hearing for the emergency use authorization for the Pfizer vaccine occurs on Thursday,” said Dr Philip Robinson, medical director of infection prevention at Hoag Hospital. “We could hear that day or next day and once they decide that this vaccine has met all safety criteria and effectiveness, my understanding is within 24 hours that the vaccine will be on the move.”

The county could receive its doses as early as Dec. 15, and Chau said they would go to healthcare workers. Then, residents of skilled nursing facilities would be next on the list.

“The initial people that will be getting the vaccine in this very first wave will be healthcare providers that are putting themselves at risk caring for COVID patients so these will be bedside nurses and doctors caring for COVID patients,” Robinson said. “The other group to receive the initial COVID vaccine will be residents of skilled nursing facilities.”

Vaccines for the general public are not expected until spring or early summer, Chau said.

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