The coronavirus’s highly infectious omicron variant, combined with typical holiday travel and cold-weather indoor gatherings have sent COVID-19 cases and potential exposures skyrocketing in the U.S. and Orange County and – and sent people scrambling to get tested.
Local health care officials say tests are available – both in-person and via free at-home kits Orange County will mail to anyone who asks – but residents have been reporting long lines, fully booked calendars and empty shelves at local stores.
While newspapers and cable stations cry panic, the impact has been far less severe than a year ago when hospitalizations and deaths in OC were averaging over 2100 Covid patients hospitalized and 500 in the ICU. The numbers from Thursday show 420 hospitalized and 86 in the ICU, roughly one-fifth of last year’s numbers. More importantly, daily deaths, which were around 70 a year ago, numbered only two in Thursday’s numbers.
Per Patch, the county had 21.6% of its intensive care unit beds available and 68% of its ventilators last week. Of those hospitalized, 87% are unvaccinated, and 88% of those in ICU were not inoculated, according to the OCHCA. One could also say of those hospitalized 13% were vaccinated, and 12% of those in ICU were vaccinated. The county was not scheduled to report any more numbers until its Monday conference.
The less severe numbers and shortage of tests have prompted many local doctors to advise against getting a test unless you have symptoms or have been exposed to the virus for an extended period. Dr. Charles Bailey, medical director for infection prevention at Providence Mission and Providence St. Joseph hospitals, noted just being in a room for a few minutes with someone who later tests positive is less of a concern than, say, having lunch across the table from them. “With the limited supply of tests, I would encourage people not to test just for peace of mind,” Bailey said.
OC Supervisor Katrina Foley released a graphic showing some test sites in her district. The list did not include the City of Los Alamitos Covid Clinic at the Rec Center offices which is open Mon-Thursday from 8 am-5 pm and on Saturday from 8 am to 12:30 pm.