By CBSLA Staff

SANTA ANA (CBSLA) — Orange County health care officials reported 353 new COVID-19 cases Monday but no new deaths a day after being taken off the state’s watchlist.

To date, the county’s death toll remains at 897, and the cumulative case total is up to 46,307.

On Sunday, the county was taken off California’s watchlist containing areas of concern during the coronavirus pandemic.

The state mandates a county must be off the watch list for 15 days before all schools can reopen. Orange County’s data on hospitalizations and other key metrics have been moving in the right direction, with the rate of county residents testing positive for COVID-19 at 5.4%t, below the state’s desired threshold of 8%.

Hospitalizations in the area rose from 380 Sunday to 388 Monday, with the number of intensive care unit patients increasing from 111 to 116.

The county’s case rate per 100,000 residents dropped from 90.2 to 85.1, which is still far higher than the California Department of Public Health threshold of 25 per 100,000 residents.

Of the 46,307 cases, there have been 37,907 documented recoveries. The county has also reported 597,387 COVID-19 tests have been conducted, including 3,305 reported on Monday.

Orange County could be placed back on the watch list should it be flagged for exceeding any one of six different metrics for three consecutive days. Those metrics are the case rate, the percentage of positive tests, the average number of tests a county is able to perform daily, changes in the number of hospitalized patients and the percentage of ventilators and intensive care beds available.

“People need to know what is the community transmission in their own community because if you open schools, and even if you do everything right…if the community transmission is high, the staff is not going to be safe, the teachers are not going to be safe, the students are not going to be safe, and their families are not going to be safe, ” said Dr. America Bracho with Latino Health Access Anaheim.

Orange County’s two largest communities, Santa Ana and Anaheim which have large Latinx communities, have reported the highest number of positive COVID-19 cases. They are also the cities with the highest number of children who have tested positive for the virus.

During a Monday news conference, Gov. Gavin Newsom said he was “encouraged” by San Diego, Orange and San Francisco counties coming off the watch list.

“Progress is being made across the spectrum on hospital ICUs and positivity rates,” Newsom said.

The governor, however, cautioned that statistics released on Mondays are always “lower than it actually is” because of reporting protocols.

If Orange County stays off the state’s watchlist for 14 days, all K-12 schools could potentially open for in-person instruction in early September, which remains a point of concern for some educators.

Dozens of Orange County schools, mostly private, have already received waivers to reopen campuses.

Santa Ana Unified and the Anaheim Union High School District have announced they will stick with remote learning. Their communities have five times the number of cases compared to the rest of the county.

“First, we want the numbers low at the community level,” said Bracho. “And then we need to be ready to manage an outbreak.”

The state health department says even once the 14 days have passed, other sectors of the community must remain closed including bars, gym, and indoor dining. Officials say they are constantly reassessing when to modify the health order.

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

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