Relaxed distancing rules and other factors have boosted the local spread of coronavirus so quickly in recent weeks that on Monday state health officials put Orange County on a watch list of counties in danger of facing new lockdown orders.
In its assessment, California’s Dept. of Public Health cited outbreaks at assisted living facilities, memory care facilities and other communal homes in Orange County as key drivers behind the boost in positive tests for coronavirus and an upturn in hospitalizations.
The state health department also formed an action plan that Orange County leaders can use to slow the disease and avoid renewed lockdown orders. The plan includes added testing sites, better coronavirus education and prioritizing resources for the hardest hit hospitals.
Orange County is one of 19 California counties to be put on the state’s monitoring list, which closely tracks metrics such as rates of cases per 100,000 residents, averages of positive tests and new hospitalizations. Others include Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties.
In recent weeks, Orange County inched closer to surpassing key criteria laid out by the state meant to flag troubled counties.
On Monday, June 29, the county reached 108.9 coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents, exceeding the state’s threshold of 100.
Orange County’s rate of positive tests of 9.2% on Monday also surpassed the state’s 8% limit. The county first exceeded the state’s testing positivity limit on Friday with 8.5%.
There are currently 485 people with COVID-19 in Orange County hospitals, a 66% increase since June 1, when 292 were hospitalized, according to Health Care Agency data.
If the uptick hospitalizations and other metrics isn’t reversed, Orange County could face renewed lockdowns that could again limit operations of non-essential businesses and other facets of public life.
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday asked Imperial County to reinstate stay-at-home orders due to a spike in COVIDV-19 hospitalizations that led to hospitals offloading patients to centers in surrounding counties.
The state health department has laid out steps Orange County officials, including the Health Care Agency, can take to address the surge.
They include collaborating with cities and businesses to relay the importance of social distancing, avoiding gatherings and wearing face masks in public.
State health officials also advised Orange County to roll out more coronavirus testing sites and take bolder steps to educate skilled nursing facilities and communities with high case rates on infection control practices and proper protective equipment use.
On Sunday, Newsom ordered seven counties, including Los Angeles, to immediately close bars and other businesses that only serve alcohol, citing a disturbing growth in cases.
Source: Orange County Register