By CBSLA Staff

SANTA ANA (CBSLA) — Orange County did not make it out of the red tier of the state’s COVID-19 monitoring system on Tuesday, but officials said that the county’s numbers continue to trend in the right direction.

The Orange County Health Care Agency reported 109 new coronavirus cases and 33 more deaths on Tuesday.

The number of fatalities reported is the highest one day total since the pandemic began. But, officials said the deaths were spread out over a few weeks due to the fact that they are received from multiple sources that come in at different times.

According to the agency, the county’s deadliest day remains Aug. 3 when 19 people died from COVID-19 complications. The last day of double-digit deaths was Aug. 31 when 10 people died.

Tuesday’s numbers bring the overall death toll to 1,249 and the case total to 53,557.

Hospitalizations increased slightly from 161 on Monday to 162 on Tuesday. The number of patients in ICU remained at 46.

Officials said that the reporting of fewer than 200 new cases for the second day in a row is a good sign, as the county eyes the less-restrictive orange tier.

The positivity rate remained at 3.1%, which is the same as last week. However, the daily case rate per 100,000 people went up from 3.6 to 4.4, which is higher than the cutoff of 3.9 for the orange tier.

Orange County will remain in the red tier for at least another two weeks but there is the possibility that numbers could improve enough to bump it into the orange tier by mid-October.

“We’ve had a few days of uptick in numbers, small but significant to affect our tier system,” said Dr. Clayton Chau, the director of the Health Care Agency and the county’s chief health officer.

Chau said it may have been Labor Day gatherings that led to the increase.

However, the small spike in cases per 100,000 people “doesn’t signify
something terrible in the community,” said county CEO Frank Kim. “When you get down to around 3.5 to 4 cases per 100,000 that’s very small.”

Orange County’s population is around three million, so that would be about 32 additional cases. It is difficult to pin down the source of outbreaks in a sample size that small, Kim said.

Chau said that officials do not think that children returning to school has had an impact on numbers.

“We have not had any outbreaks in all of the schools,” Chau said.

County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett expressed concern about U.C. Irvine students returning to campus from out of state or internationally, but Chau said that the university has a strict testing protocol in place.

“It looks like UCI is one of the strictest U.C. campus, which is good for us,” Chau said. “They have a great testing protocol and contact tracing system and what have you.”

Bartlett also said there may be an issue if the county wavers back and forth between the red and orange tiers, because the county would be locked back into the more restrictive tier for three weeks, regardless of metrics.

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

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