featured graphic for Orange County Health Care Agency during COVID-19

OC Health Care Agency urges preventative measures as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to rise, updates on testing and booster timing

With COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations surging in Orange County, the OC Health Agency strongly urges residents and visitors to strictly follow proper masking, proper hand-hygiene, physical distancing, and other non-medical preventative measures to minimize further spread of this highly transmissible variant.

Between January 6 and January 12, the seven-day average COVID-19 case rate in Orange County jumped from 94 to 183 per 100,000 people and the average number of daily COVID-19 cases rose from 3,031 to 5,896. The positivity rate also increased from 19.1 to 25.8 percent, hospitalizations from 724 to 1,071, and ICU admissions from 107 to 154 per day.

“With the highly transmissible Omicron variant causing widespread infection around the world and locally, it is apparent that adding additional layers of protection to prevent transmission is more important now than ever,” says Dr. Regina Chinsio-Kwong, Deputy County Health Officer. “Recent studies continue to show that getting vaccinated significantly minimizes the chances of having a severe illness, getting hospitalized or dying from Omicron. Vaccination also helps reduce the strain on our health system. The majority of hospitalizations at this time continues to be among the unvaccinated at 86%. We urge everyone to be vigilant about protecting one another by taking preventive steps to avoid further transmission.”

During the current surge, Orange County residents and visitors are advised to:

  • Get fully vaccinated and boosted to maximize your immunity against COVID-19
  • Wear a well-fitting mask as an added layer of protection against viruses which can spread through respiratory droplets. The State’s indoor masking mandate for everyone regardless of vaccination status has been extended until February 15, 2022
  • Keep a safe distance from others outside of your household, to avoid close contact with people who may be unvaccinated or asymptomatic
  • If you recently attended a high risk event, traveled, or came into close contact with someone who has COVID-19, self-monitor for symptoms and get tested
  • If you are sick, stay home, follow isolation guidance and get tested

Updates on COVID-19 Testing

In an effort to increase access to free COVID-19 testing, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that beginning January 15, 2022, individuals covered by private health insurance or group health plan will be able to purchase over-the-counter, at-home COVID-19 tests approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and have those costs covered by their plan or insurance. For more information, click here.

Testing shortages and supply chain issues are continuing across the U.S. People recently exposed to COVID-19, or have mild symptoms, are advised to follow the State’s isolation and quarantine guidance, and to be patient in searching for testing options. You can locate nearby testing services through the State’s website at covid19.ca.gov/get-tested.

Self-collection, at-home COVID-19 Test Kits continue to be available at no cost to people who work or live in Orange County, and can be ordered online at ochealthinfo.com/covidtest. Due to the increased demand for COVID-19 testing, however, requestors are encouraged to be patient as test kits may be delayed beyond the usual processing time.

People without symptoms, or who have mild symptoms and are at low risk of severe disease, should not go to the hospital or emergency room to obtain screening testing. Hospitals are focused on people who are sick and need urgent care.

As testing shortages continue throughout the U.S., reports are surfacing about pop-up testing operations that may be unlicensed and out to scam people. Asking what laboratory they are sending to or requesting to see their healthcare credential will be helpful as most tests require a licensed professional to gather specimens. Legitimate testing sites will NOT ask for social security numbers or other data designed to collect your personal information.

Fraud related to COVID-19 can be reported to the HHS Office of Inspector General by calling 800-HHS-TIPS (800-447-8477) or online at oig.hhs.gov/fraud/report-fraud.

CDC Recommends Moderna Booster at 5 Months

On January 7, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) extended the recommendation for shortening the interval between the primary vaccination and booster dose for the Moderna vaccine to 5 months. People who initially received an mRNA vaccine (Comirnaty/Pfizer or Moderna) can now receive a booster dose of an mRNA vaccine 5 months after completing their primary series.

Vaccines continue to be widely available throughout Orange County for walk-in, same day and future appointments. Individuals who are not yet vaccinated or boosted against COVID-19, or are eligible for a third dose (due to immunocompromise conditions) are encouraged to visit a local pharmacy or healthcare provider, or go online to Vaccines.gov, MyTurn.ca.gov or Othena.com, to schedule a vaccination appointment.

For more information on COVID-19 information and resources, including case counts, vaccination and testing in Orange County, visit ochealthinfo.com/covid.

This article was released by the Orange County Health Care Agency.