By CBSLA Staff

SANTA ANA (CBSLA) — Orange County reported another 262 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, continuing a recent trend of a sharp increase in infections.

The total number of cases reported since the pandemic began is now 57,635.

Another 11 coronavirus-related deaths were reported, raising the death toll t0 1,423.

The number of hospitalizations increased from 164 on Tuesday to 174 on Wednesday. The number of patients in ICU increased from 63 to 66.

Since Sunday, the county has reported 14 virus-related fatalities. In the past month, the county has been reporting between 50 to 80 deaths per week.

The positivity rate, which is reported every Tuesday, stayed at 3.2%. The daily case rate per 100,000 remained at 4.6. This means the county is close to being able to move to the less restrictive orange tier of the state’s COVID-19 monitoring system.

At Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, Chairwoman Michelle Steel called into question the scientific basis for the system.

“It’s just really frustrating here,” Steel said. “Where is the scientific base here? … The frustrating thing is Orange County numbers are really low.”

She added that “99.9 percent don’t feel anything” when they are infected, though there is not necessarily data to support that claim.

“This county is going to file another bankruptcy,” Steel said, referencing the county’s first bankruptcy in 1994. “Small businesses are not coming back. This is seven months.”

She questioned how health department officials are calculating the percentages of cases needed to move tiers.

“He is not a scientist,” Steel said of Gov. Gavin Newsom. “Stop all (this) nonsense and do something about these businesses… I don’t see any scientific base at all.”

Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett added, “We’re all very frustrated right now.”

However, Bartlett also pointed out that the tier system was developed to help make sure that hospital systems are not overwhelmed by a surge of COVID-19 patients.

“Our hospital system is not being overwhelmed and somehow we’ve got to be able to address that issue with the state,” Bartlett said. “There’s no correlation between case counts increasing and overwhelming our hospital system, because we still have so much capacity.”

Bartlett said large urban counties such as Orange “are going to be stuck in the red tier for an extended period of time.”

Bartlett also addressed the rising case counts this week, saying they are “notable, because our neighboring
counties are going from red to purple,” Bartlett said. “And, we know, that regionally what happens in one county easily impacts other counties. We’re a major job center for people coming here from purple counties.”

Officials have been aiming for a daily case rate of about 130 to get to the orange tier. To qualify for the orange tier, the positivity rate must be 2% to 4%, and the case rate per 100,000 must be 1 to 3.9.

On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors also approved several other coronavirus-related plans, including:

— a $5 million grant program to help child care providers with pandemic-related expenses. The grant, which utilizes a portion of the county’s share of federal CARES Act funding, comes after a state agency report showing many childcare providers suffering during the pandemic, with many closing

— a $3 million grant to the Second Harvest Food Bank and Community Action Partnership to help feed needy families affected by loss of employment during the pandemic

— a plan to use CARES funding to provide skilled-nursing facilities and community health centers with more personal protective equipment and increased staffing to help stem the spread of coronavirus among the most vulnerable population in the county

— a plan to accept Homekey Program grants totaling more than $23 million to acquire two hotels in Stanton that have been used to quarantine transients during the pandemic. The county plans to use the hotels to provide transitional shelters for transients as officials work to get them into permanent housing.

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

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