July 2nd, 2020
A mistake led to overcount of coronavirus testing in Orange County. ‘Serology tests never should’ve been included as they are not an appropriate diagnostic test,’ county health officials acknowledge
First, it’s important to understand the differences between the two most common COVID-19 tests. The only test that counties are supposed to report is the diagnostic test, which finds active infections. It’s called the polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, test, and uses a cotton swab to penetrate high into the nose and throat to collect gunk. That material is then examined for the virus’ genetic markers. PCR tests can identify the sick, but can’t detect if someone once had COVID-19 and then recovered. The serology, or blood antibody, test offers that window to the past. A positive result means the body mounted an immune response to the virus in recent weeks or months — but serology tests are notoriously unreliable for determining who’s sick right now. That’s why it’s not supposed to be used, or counted, in officially reported testing numbers. But for five weeks — from April 28 through June 3 — Orange County mistakenly added about 30,000 serology test results to its “cumulative tests to date” figures, according to Orange County Public Health Services. That made it appear testing was greater in O.C. than it actually was, to the tune of some 13 percent by the time the extra tests were removed. Positive serology tests were not counted as positive COVID-19 cases, the county said. The mistake may have made the pandemic appear less intense in Orange County than it really was to people who were following the numbers closely.
June 29th, 2020
Coronavirus is spreading quickly enough locally that on Monday state health officials put Orange County on a watch list of counties in danger of facing new lockdown orders. In its assessment, California’s Dept. of Public Health cited outbreaks at assisted living facilities, memory care facilities and other communal homes in Orange County as key drivers behind the boost in positive tests for coronavirus and an upturn in hospitalizations.
Orange County is one of 19 California counties to be put on the state’s monitoring list, which closely tracks metrics such as rates of new cases per 100,000 residents, averages of positive tests and new hospitalizations. Others include Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties.
On Monday, June 29, the county reached 108.9 coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents, exceeding the state’s threshold of 100. range County’s rate of positive tests of 9.2% on Monday also surpassed the state’s limit of 8%. The county first exceeded the state’s testing positivity limit on Friday with 8.5%. There are currently 485 people with COVID-19 in Orange County hospitals, a 66% increase since June 1, when local hospitals had 292 COVID patients, according to Health Care Agency data. If the uptick in hospitalizations and other metrics isn’t reversed, Orange County could face renewed lockdowns that could again limit operations of non-essential businesses. At least one other county is being urged to reverse its opening plan. On Friday, Gov. Gavin Newsom asked Imperial County to reinstate stay-at-home orders due to a jump in COVID-19 hospitalizations that led to area hospitals offloading patients to centers in surrounding counties. Before taking such a step in Orange County, however, state health officials want local leaders to work on a multi-part plan to tamp down the county’s infection rate. Recommended measures include amplified public messaging about the importance of social distancing, small to no gatherings, and wearing face masks in public. State health officials also want Orange County to roll out more coronavirus testing sites and take bolder steps to educate skilled nursing facilities and communities with high case rates on infection control practices and the proper use of protective equipment. Marc Meulman, chief of operations of the Health Care Agency’s Public Health Services, said the agency collaborated with the state in drafting the action steps, but no state resources will be dedicated to implementing them. “Nothing deviates from what has been in place. However, these are strategies identified as efforts to counter the increase in disease transmission in O.C.,” Meulman said. On Sunday, Newsom ordered seven counties, including Los Angeles, to immediately close bars and other businesses that only serve alcohol, citing a disturbing growth in cases. Bernadette Boden-Albala, dean of UC Irvine’s public health program and an expert in social epidemiology, said that early in the pandemic, Orange County residents did a good job of heeding public health warnings and slowing the virus’s spread. An urgent issue now, Boden-Albala added, is that coroanvirus-related hospitalizations are rising at the same time that patients with other ailments are starting to return to hospitals. On Wednesday, June 24, Orange County’s hospitals were 65% full, according to an Orange County Emergency Medical Services report. That day, 467 COVID-19 patients made up 12% of all patients at 26 hospitals.
I check the OC Health & CDC sites daily to see what's happening concerning the best safety protocols for the school, and for the possibility of requiring the facility to close again. Thank you for your patience !