By CBSLA Staff

SANTA ANA (CBSLA) — Orange County Wednesday reported an additional 71 COVID-19 fatalities, including 15 that occurred in December.

The newly reported deaths raise the county’s death toll to 2,839. According to a UC Irvine public health expert’s projections, that number could reach 4,000 in three weeks.

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Andrew Noymer, a UC Irvine professor of population health and disease prevention, said that at the rate of the past week, it would take 22 days for the county’s death toll to reach 4,000.

“It’s just a question of when, not if,” Noymer said.

Of the deaths reported Wednesday, one was a skilled nursing facility resident and nine were assisted living facility residents. Since the beginning of the pandemic, 813 skilled nursing facility residents and 307 assisted living facility residents have died from the virus.

Wednesday’s report from the Orange County Health Care Agency boosted December’s coronavirus death toll to 744 with the 15 additional fatalities.

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This month, 397 people have died of coronavirus-related causes in the county.

The number of patients hospitalized due to the virus declined from 1,677 Tuesday to 1,639 Wednesday. However, the number of patients in intensive care units increased from 437 to 448.

The county’s state-adjusted ICU bed availability remains at zero, and the unadjusted figure ticked down from 10.2% Tuesday to 10.1%

The county logged 1,038 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, bringing the total caseload to 227,021.

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