By CBSLA Staff

SANTA ANA (CBSLA) — Orange County Thursday continued its declining trends in COVID-19 cases as it neared the less-restrictive red tier of the state’s monitoring system.

The county reported 139 more coronavirus cases and 33 additional fatalities Thursday.

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The numbers brought the county’s total caseload to 248,217 and the death toll to 4,379.

Of the deaths reported Thursday, three were skilled nursing facility residents and two were assisted living facility residents, raising the death toll among those groups to 1,011 and 489 respectively.

Hospitalizations also continued to decline. As of Thursday, 252 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 down from 277 on Wednesday. Of those patients, 67 were being treated in intensive care, down from 73 the day prior.

“It’s the continued low case numbers that we’ve seen, and I think it’s important to communicate to our residents that while we expect Orange County to open into the red tier in the coming week this isn’t the time to let our guard down,” Orange County CEO Frank Kim said. “It’s important to continue to support all the public health protocols. We don’t want to see a repeat of what we saw over the holiday season. We need to reopen. That’s good, but we’re urging caution.”

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.

Under the red tier, more businesses and organizations could reopen. Retail stores could allow for half capacity instead of 25%, and museums, zoos and aquariums could reopen for indoor activities at 25% capacity, as could movie theaters, gyms and restaurants.

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