(TNS) - Dec. 20—Orange County logged another single-day record on Sunday, Dec. 20, for new reported cases of the coronavirus as a winter surge spreads through its communities and packs local hospitals.
The additional 4,606 cases reported Sunday by the OC Health Care Agency in its daily update put the cumulative total since tracking began at 124,428 people testing positive for the virus.
Some 1,682 people needed hospitalization as of Sunday, 375 of them in intensive care units.
About 12% capacity remains in Orange County ICUs, Sunday's update said; when officials adjust that number to reflect the stress COVID-19 patients are putting on the health care system, they peg capacity at basically 0%.
Southern California falling below 15% capacity two weeks ago is what triggered the regional stay-at-home orders that have limited capacity in many businesses, restricted restaurants to take-out only, shuttered some sectors and required places of worship to hold services outdoors or online.
Emergency rooms continue to be inundated with people seeking care, leading to wait times for ambulances looking to transfer in patients that were averaging about 24 minutes as of Friday, but in many cases are taking nearly an hour.
Because longer wait times were being experienced at so many hospitals, public health leaders in the county on Friday extended a directive against emergency rooms diverting patients to other facilities when times are high, because the stress on the system is so spread out ambulances would have few options.
Orange County reported 15 additional deaths on Sunday. Data on deaths in the county is compiled from death certificates or gathered through the course of case investigations and may have been from previous days or weeks, officials say.
Of the new deaths — which increased the total number of people who have died to 1,775 — six were residents of skilled nursing homes and six were staff members.
Dr. Clayton Chau, the director of the OC Health Care Agency and the county's chief health officer, issued an order earlier in the week prohibiting communal dining and group activities in residential care facilities for the elderly when a patient or staffer is diagnosed with the coronavirus. The activities can resume after two consecutive rounds of COVID-19 tests of all residents and employees at least a week apart come back negative.
Orange County CEO Frank Kim said the order came about after state officials asked the county to help the nursing homes.
"Based on our review it appeared that in a lot of (the facilities) they were eating together in dining rooms and not taking as many precautions as recommended," Kim said.
Kim said he was concerned about the rising case counts and hospitalizations.
Beyond ramping up testing and setting up mobile field hospitals to help overflowing medical centers, Kim said, "all you can do is implore people to change their behavior."
Officials have stressed people should continue to wear masks, wash their hands frequently, maintain social distancing around others and not gather with people outside their households during the holidays.
On Sunday, county officials reported another 20,198 tests for the virus had been taken in the last day. Since testing began locally, more than 1.85 million tests have been taken. In Orange County there are now take-at-home saliva tests available to residents, along with in-person testing.
The county has tested an average of about 527 people per 100,000 residents in a week, an all-time high, according to the latest figures available.
City News Service contributed to this report.
(c)2020 The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.)
Visit The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.) at www.ocregister.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.