Orange County Officials Expect To Move Up To Orange Tier As Soon As Tuesday

SANTA ANA (CBSLA) — Orange County officials reported six more COVID-19 fatalities and 84 new cases Thursday.

The new numbers bring the county’s totals to 1,182 deaths and 52,622 cumulative cases since the pandemic began.

Two of the deaths reported Thursday were skilled nursing facility residents and two lived in assisted living facilities.

Since Sunday, the county reported 55 coronavirus fatalities.

According to the Orange County Health Care Agency, the deaths were spread out over the past few weeks due to a lag in reporting because data come from multiple sources, officials say.

Since the pandemic began, 433 of the fatalities were skilled nursing facility residents and 83 lived in assisted living facilities.

“Even though the disease transmission is much lower in our communities, today the risk is still the same for those individuals with underlying health conditions,” Orange County CEO Frank Kim said. “We know people are interacting and we have to be very careful with people who are older or who have underlying health conditions. The risk hasn’t changed.”

Though trends have continued to improve, officials are concerned that residents might let down their guard as more businesses reopen, Kim said.

“We’re all going through it as an entire country. As we reopen more, you’ll continue to see a disproportionate number of people who pass away,” Kim said. “Just because your risk of infection is lower because there’s less transmission in the community, doesn’t mean that the actual risk of contracting COVID-19 has diminished, especially for those who are older and have underlying conditions.”

Officials say the county’s COVID-19 numbers are improving enough to move up to the orange tier of the state’s monitoring list, within a week if trends continue.

The overall positivity rate went from 3.9% to 3.1%, and the daily case count per 100,000 people dropped from 4.7 to 3.6.

The county has to remain within that range for another week, then it can move up from the red to the orange tier.

“I expect we will go to the orange tier next Tuesday,” Supervisor Lisa Bartlett said. “That’s another huge milestone relative to getting the upper hand on coronavirus in Orange County.”

“It’s a big week,” Kim said. “If we miss it this week, you have to wait another seven days.”

Under the orange tier, retail businesses could operate at full capacity, instead of 50% in the current red tier. Shopping malls also could operate at full capacity, but with closed common areas and reduced food courts just as in the red tier.

Capacity for churches, restaurants, movies, museums, zoos and aquariums would also be allowed to increase from 25% capacity to half capacity. Gyms and fitness centers could boost capacity from 10% to 25% and reopen pools.

The orange tier also allows family entertainment centers like bowling alleys and wall-climbing to open indoors to 25% capacity.

Of the 52,622 cases in the county, there have been 47,513 documented recoveries. The OCHCA reported that 819,311 COVID-19 tests have been conducted, including 8,403 reported Thursday.

(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)

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