By CBSLA Staff

SANTA ANA (CBSLA) – Orange County Friday reported 55 new COVID-19 infections, as hospitalization rates maintain some of the lowest numbers since the first couple of months of the pandemic.

Hospitalizations inched up from 61 on Thursday to 62 on Friday, but the number of intensive care unit patients decreased from 18 to 14.

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Orange County CEO Frank Kim said that all of the county’s COVID-19 metrics are “down about a tenth of a point. It’s a progression of what we’ve seen over the last several weeks.”

It is especially encouraging as more of the county’s economy reopens in the least-restrictive yellow tier, Kim said.

“The numbers are generally looking amazing,” Andrew Noymer, a UC Irvine professor of population health and disease prevention, told City News Service on Thursday.

“It’s cyclical, but the cycles are trending downward,” Noymer said of hospitalizations and ICU numbers.

Kim was concerned that the Cal OSHA proposed guidelines for after June 15, when the state shuts down its tiered system and lifts most restrictions don’t appear to change much.

“Cal OSHA posted draft workplace standards for Covid and there’s not much different from what we currently have and I’m worried about that,” Kim said.

“I worry about confusion in the community,” Kim said. “Most people have a sense that on June 15 most things will go back to normal, but for employers, in the workplace it doesn’t look like much has changed.”

The draft proposal must be posted for five days while the public weighs in and then the state agency’s board will vote on it, Kim said.

“I may not be able to bring all of my employees back, so it will not look the way they think it will,” Kim said.

The new infections reported Friday increased the county’s cumulative case number to 255,164. Three additional fatalities were reported, raising the cumulative death toll to 5,059.

One death occurred in March, raising the death toll in that month to 182.

Two other fatalities were reported in December, boosting the death toll in the second deadliest month of the pandemic to 938.

The death toll so far this month stands at five, and 41 for last month.

The death toll for February is 581. The death toll in January, the deadliest month in the pandemic, is 1,546.

Another 9,702 COVID-19 tests were reported Friday, bringing the county’s total to 3,906,305.

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According to the weekly state data released every Tuesday, the average for the county’s daily case rate per 100,000 residents dropped from 1.5 to 1.3. The overall test positivity rate improved from 0.9% to 0.8%, and the county’s Health Equity Quartile rate, which measures positivity in hot spots in disadvantaged communities, declined from 0.9% to 0.7%.

The county public health officer, Dr. Clayton Chau, who also is director of the Orange County Health Care Agency, said the county has administered more than 3 million doses of vaccines. At least 1.6 million people have received one dose and 1.3 million are fully vaccinated, he said.

About 360,000 residents are awaiting a second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, Chau said. Since residents 12 and older can now get a shot, there are 2.7 million residents eligible for a vaccine, he said.

Chau said anyone who has recovered from COVID-19 is still recommended to get a shot because studies show that vaccinated people have six times more antibodies.

The county is aiming to hold 30 mobile vaccination clinics as the mass vaccination sites are shut down, he said.

“We’re reaching the point where people will get the vaccine if we make it more convenient,” Chau said Tuesday.

Orange County Board of Supervisors Chairman Andrew Do and Vice Chairman Doug Chaffee hailed Chau on Friday for being named physician of the year by the Orange County Medical Association. In a joint statement, the supervisors praised Chau for his “integrity, excellence, compassion and exceptional leadership throughout his career in public health. During these unprecedented times, Dr. Chau’s contribution to the residents of Orange County in fighting against the pandemic is especially commendable.”

Kim said, “I don’t know of any other doctor that worked as hard as he did” during the pandemic.

“He worked every single day, day and night since last May,” Kim said. “He has shown an incredible commitment and resiliency to support the Covid response from the county from initially addressing the testing challenges and then transitioning around New Year’s to (mobile field hospitals) and vaccination efforts. I couldn’t be more proud of him. I’m so happy they recognized the tremendous work he’s done for the community.’

Noymer praised the mobile clinics.

“Mobile clinics are a good idea,” he said. “Honestly, anything that works. People keep saying we’re 60% vaccinated, but the remaining 40% is going to be way harder … The problem is we’re also approaching the ceiling, so the people who have not gotten vaccinated yet really require more persuasion.”

Noymer also hailed the idea of a lottery as an incentive to get inoculated.

“It’s a good move to do a lottery,” Noymer told CNS. “It will increase participation and it will mean the fall wave is going to be a mild wave as opposed to what we had in January.”

Noymer predicts the summer months will be “totally manageable.”

Orange County last week officially entered the least-restrictive yellow tier of the reopening blueprint, which allows for greater attendance for many businesses such as movie theaters and gyms, while museums, zoos and aquariums can open at full capacity. For the first time, bars and distilleries can open indoors. Theme parks such as Disneyland can expand attendance.

The Discovery Cube of Orange County children’s museum reopened on Friday. Disneyland will begin allowing out-of-state customers in mid-June and will debut its new Avengers Campus attraction next week.

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(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)