By CBSLA Staff

SANTA ANA (CBSLA) — The Orange County Health Care Agency Thursday reported 271 newly confirmed coronavirus cases and three more deaths, bringing countywide totals to 61,112 cases and 1,494 deaths.

With the COVID-19 case rate continuing to rise in the county, officials again emphasized the importance of social distancing and face covering usage to slow the spread.

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“While Orange County remains in the red tier, it is important we continue that trend so that we can eventually go downward to the next tier,” Orange County Board Chairwoman Michelle Steel said at the county’s weekly news conference on its COVID-19 efforts. “As we get closer to the holiday season, it is important… we continue to wear a face mask when in public and practice social distancing when possible.”

One point of frustration for health officials continued to be the socializing of teens and young adults.

“It’s a major issue,” said Dr. Matthew Zahn, medical director of the county’s communicable disease control division. “I think our biggest goals, our most consistent goals, is reaching out to these populations.”

Zahn said efforts were being made to reach out to college students at local college campuses. And while he said there was more mindfulness about social distancing while on campus or at a work place, students were letting their guards down outside of those environments.

“The natural human habit is to let their guard down in social settings,” Zahn said. “And it’s the social settings where so much spread happens.”

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Health officials have also been warning of a potential rise in cases during the holidays as residents host more indoor gatherings as the weather changes.

“There seems to be an inevitability over the next couple of months,” Zahn said. “But it’s important we don’t let our guard down.”

Dr. Clayton Chau, director of the OCHCA and the county’s chief health officer, agreed with Zahn’s assessment, stating that holiday gatherings were his “source of anxiety now.”

As of Thursday, there were 178 people hospitalized with COVID-19, 76 of whom were being treated in intensive care units. 1,148,439 coronavirus tests have been conducted and there have been 54,429 documented recoveries.

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