Orange County submits plans for accelerated reopening after reporting highest number of daily deaths

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Orange County health officials reported the highest number of coronavirus deaths in a single day with 14 fatalities, and announced that they have submitted plans to the state for accelerated reopening.

The total number of deaths reached 112 in the county, 40 of which were in skilled nursing facilities, according the O.C. Health Care Agency. Of the 14 new deaths reported Thursday, 10 of them were in such facilities, health officials said.

“Patients in these facilities are sick, elderly and frail and we must put significant effort in ensuring the health of these individuals,” O.C. Board of Supervisors Chair Michelle Steele said at a Thursday briefing.

There are currently COVID-19 outbreaks in 17 skilled nursing facilities in Orange County, two in assisted living homes and two in care homes, according to Dr. Nichole Quick, the county’s health officer.

“Please know we are working around the clock to provide these facilities with all the support they need to treat and care for their residents and to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 infection,” she said.

Countywide, 115 new COVID-19 cases were reported Thursday, bringing the total to 4,841 positive cases, including 532 in skilled nursing facilities and 364 in O.C. jails.

There are currently 247 people hospitalized with the virus, including 89 in intensive care units.

The city of Santa Ana has the highest number of reported cases with 858, followed by Anaheim with 758, county data shows.

Across the county, 90,130 people have been tested at more than 15 county- and state-run locations. To sign up for testing, visit occovid19.ochealthinfo.com/covid-19-testing-and-screening.

Accelerated reopening

The record number of deaths come as the O.C. Board of Supervisors submitted plans to the state Thursday, requesting to fast-track the county’s reopening and allow it to join other counties in what Gov. Gavin Newsom’s plan calls accelerated Stage 2. That would allow malls and dine-in restaurants to resume operations, with social distancing requirements.

The state-mandated requirements include having fewer than 25 coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents in the last 14 days, or fewer than 8% of residents testing positive over the past week; and if COVID-19 patients at local hospitals haven’t increased by more than 5% in the past week, or if they haven’t had more than 20 hospitalizations on a single day over the past two weeks.

“We believe we have met all the criteria,” Supervisors Steele said. “‘[We] are currently in the process of meeting with the state to finalize our variance.”

The county had a phone call planned with state officials Thursday afternoon to discuss the specifics of their plans, according to Frank Kim, the county’s executive officer. Once that initial plan is approved, a formal application is submitted to to be reviewed by the state public health officer, he said.

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