By CBSLA Staff

SANTA ANA (CBSLA) — Orange County reported 628 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, raising the cumulative case count to 66,585.

The death toll also rose by two on Wednesday to 1,528.

Even as cases and hospitalizations continue to increase across the county, officials said they are still confident they can control the surge.

“I think it’s important to take a look at the positive COVID-19 cases in the county, but also as a percentage of those cases, how many of those are individuals who get hospitalized and also keep track of our hospital bed capacity,” County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett said.

Bartlett said that local medical centers are well prepared for a surge, but they are still monitoring to make sure no hospitals become overwhelmed.

“Right now we still have significant bed staffing in Orange County,” Bartlett said. “But we need to keep track as COVID cases rise and how many get hospitalized. We want to sure our health care system doesn’t get overwhelmed.”

Even with a rise in hospitalizations, the county has not seen a sharp spike in ICU beds being filled by COVID-19 patients, which could be attributed to doctors becoming more efficient and knowledgeable about treating the virus, she said.

Bartlett reminded residents that the biggest source of transmission at this time is indoor gatherings with family and friends.

“I think it’s small to medium private gatherings, where people are in close proximity without face coverings,” Bartlett said.

Orange County was placed back in the purple tier of the state’s reopening roadmap this week, and businesses were forced to comply with the tighter restrictions with 24 hours. Bartlett and other county leaders said that forcing businesses back into these restrictions is “punishing” them when they aren’t as much of a vector for the disease.

“We can only shut down so much,” she said. “That’s why with the private gatherings we have to figure out how to target those.”

Orange County CEO Frank Kim speculated that the Nov. 3 election may have contributed to the rise as well.

“Any time you have a public gathering that could include social or election-related or community protests — we’re not saying you can’t do those things — but we’re saying they’re absolutely one of the areas of greater risk because you’re interacting with people outside of your normal cohorts and you don’t know what parts of the community these people are coming from, so now you have a mixture of people who may or may not be from the same county. It’s an unstable cohort and that is added risk.”

Although cases have risen sharply, deaths have been decreasing over the past few weeks. Since Sunday, the county has reported just four deaths.

However, Bartlett warned that deaths are often a lagging indicator and fatalities could increase as hospitalizations continue to increase.

The number of people in the county hospitalized with the virus rose from 270 on Tuesday to 291 on Wednesday. The number of ICU patients rose from 79 to 90.

The county’s positivity rate climbed from 3.3% last week to 4.6% this week. The daily case rate per 100,000 residents sharply rose from 5.6 to 10.8.

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

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