By CBSLA Staff

SANTA ANA (CBSLA) — Orange County continued to head towards the red tier of the state’s monitoring system Wednesday as COVID- 19 cases as hospitalizations continued a downward trend.

Officials Wednesday reported 56 new COVID- 19 cases and 33 additional fatalities, but those are often delayed for a variety of reasons.

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One of the deaths reported Wednesday occurred on Dec. 23, for example.

The numbers brought the county’s death toll to 4,346 and the cumulative case at 248,078.

The number of patients hospitalized with COVI also continued to decline, with the Orange County Health Care Agency reporting 277 COVID-19 patients, down from 283 on Tuesday. Of those people, 73 were being treated in intensive care, down from 77 the day prior.

Of the deaths logged Wednesday, eight were skilled nursing facility residents and nine were assisted living facility residents, raising the death toll among those groups to 1,008 and 487.

Meanwhile Wednesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that the state was closer to meeting its goal of inoculating two million Californians in underprivileged communities most at risk for COVID-19.

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The inoculation goal allows for a relaxing of standards to move up from the most-restrictive purple tier to the red tier.

It won’t matter in Orange County, where officials say they are still on track for making it up to the red tier by March 17 at the earliest.

“I don’t think it affects us if we reach that milestone as set by the governor,” Orange County CEO Frank Kim said. “We still have to go through the process of meeting the criteria for two weeks.”

The governor’s inoculation program goal, however, will help Orange County graduate to the orange tier sooner, Kim said.

The county has met red-tier metrics for a week, and if rates continue through Sunday, the county can move tiers.

Dr. Clayton Chau, chief health officer and director of the HCA, told reporters Wednesday that the health department “expect(s) to have two weeks in the red tier on Tuesday and on Wednesday we’ll have an official entry into the red tier.”

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