By CBSLA Staff

SANTA ANA (CBSLA) — Orange County officials Thursday reported 141 newly confirmed coronavirus cases and 14 additional deaths.

The new numbers brought the county’s totals to 1,292 deaths and 55,183 cases since the pandemic began.

Of the deaths reported Thursday, 11 were skilled nursing facility residents and one was an assisted living facility resident.

Since the pandemic began, 476 of the COVID-19 victims who died were skilled nursing facility residents and 90 resided in assisted living facilities.

The death reports are made sporadically from multiple hospitals and other sources, so the fatalities did not happen since the day before.

Hospitalizations decreased from 183 Wednesday to 172 Thursday, with the number of patients in intensive care dropping from 64 to 62. The change in the three-day average of hospitalized patients increased from 7.6% to 9.9%.

Last week, Orange County CEO Frank Kim said he was watching the numbers carefully and was “concerned” that daily case rates crept upward, going above the 200 mark on Friday.

“I want to see those numbers smaller… The general trend is a slow, steady rise in caseloads. We’re not seeing any significant particular industry sector that is causing it. It’s generally throughout the community.”

The positivity rate, which was reported each Tuesday, inched up from 3.1% last week to 3.2%, and the daily case rate per 100,000 people rose from 4.4 to 5.2, which is higher than the cutoff of 3.9 to qualify for a move from the red to the orange tier in the state’s coronavirus monitoring system.

Falling short of reaching the orange tier frustrated some county supervisors, who complained at their meeting Tuesday about how difficult it will be for urban counties such as Orange to ever reach the standard to get to the orange tier.

“We have to do more testing to meet the next step,” said Board Chairwoman Michelle Steel.

Dr. Clayton Chau, director of the OCHCA and the county’s chief health officer, said increased testing can lower the positivity rate, but it can also lead to an increase in the case rate per 100,000. The state introduced the health equity measure, which launched Tuesday, to help counties address high case counts concentrated within certain ZIP codes that include high-density housing and language barriers, among other issues.

“If you’re able to bridge the gap and bring it to the overall positivity rate you can move up to the next tier,” Chau said.

The OCHCA has reported 918,420  COVID-19 tests have been conducted, including 7,058 reported Thursday.

Of the 55,183 cases, there have been 49,485 documented recoveries.

To qualify for the orange tier, the positivity rate must be 2% – 4%, and the case rate per 100,000 must be 1% – 3.9%.

Moving to the orange tier would allow retail businesses could operate at full capacity as well as shopping malls.

The orange tier also boosts capacity for churches, restaurants, movies, museums, zoos and aquariums from 25% capacity to half capacity. Gyms and fitness centers could boost capacity from 10% to 25% and reopen pools.

Family entertainment centers like bowling alleys and wall-climbing would also be able to open indoors to 25% capacity under the orange tier.

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

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