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

Preventative measures against COVID-19 still necessary as Lunar New Year celebrations anticipated

In anticipation of increased gatherings during the Lunar New Year holiday and due to high COVID-19 hospitalizations, the OC Health Agency 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 the highly transmissible Omicron variant.  

Between January 13 and January 25, the seven-day average COVID-19 case rate in Orange County decreased from 207 to 189 per 100,000 people, average number of daily COVID-19 cases from 6,683 to 6,097, and positivity rate from 26.8 to 25.3 percent. However, hospitalizations remain high at 1,114 as well as ICU admissions at 191. The majority of hospitalizations continues to be among the unvaccinated at 85%.

“We are starting to see cases stabilize; however, what we know from previous surges is once we hit a peak in cases, we usually see an increase in hospitalizations continuing to occur in the days or weeks following,” says Dr. Regina Chinsio-Kwong, Deputy County Health Officer. “We expect hospitalizations to remain high and, combined with healthcare staff getting sick and being unavailable to care for patients, this puts a huge strain on our hospitals and healthcare system. It has been two years since we first received confirmation of our first COVID-19 case here in Orange County, and sadly to date, we reached an unfortunate milestone with over 6,000 OC residents having lost their lives to COVID-19. I know people are tired of hearing about masks, vaccines and testing, but we must continue to do our part to follow all of the preventative measures against COVID-19 to help minimize everyone’s risk of getting infected and reduce the strain on our health care system. This is additionally important as we expect people to gather for Lunar New Year celebrations.”

To continue slowing the spread of COVID-19, 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 when you are indoors in public, in crowded settings or around others who are at high risk of getting sick from COVID-19. The CDC recommends that you wear an N95 mask or the most protective mask you can that fits well and that you will wear consistently. 
  • 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. Stay home and follow self-quarantine guidance if you came into close contact with someone who has COVID-19.
  • If you are sick, stay home, follow self-isolation guidance and get tested. 

Testing continues to be a critical component in reducing viral transmission by supporting early detection of COVID-19 and containment of the disease. There are many ways to get a COVID-19 test:

  • At-home tests are now available to order online through the U.S. Postal Service by visiting covidtests.gov
  • Find tests by asking your healthcare provider or going to a local retail pharmacy
  • Order at-home test kits online at no cost through the OC Health Care Agency at ochealthinfo.com/covidtest
  • Search for a local certified testing site by going to covidclinic.org

For people who are ordering test kits online, please be patient as test kits may be delayed beyond the usual processing time due to high demand for COVID-19 testing and deliveries being affected by weather. 

If you suspect that a testing operation may be fraudulent, please report it to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, by calling (800) HHS-TIPS, or online at oig.hhs.gov/fraud.

Federal Government Offers Free N95 Masks:

Beginning this week, the federal government will make 400 million non-surgical N95 masks available for free at pharmacies and community health centers across the country. 

“Each adult will be able to pick up three free masks. The masks will be available at tens of thousands of pharmacies and 100-200 community health centers across the country,” said Dr. Clayton Chau, HCA Director and County Health Officer. “Most of the pharmacies that have partnered with the federal government to deliver COVID-19 vaccines through the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program are expected to participate in the new mask distribution program, including CVS, Walgreens, Kroger, Rite Aid, Publix, Walmart and Sam’s Club.” 

A full list of pharmacy and supermarket pharmacy chains that participate in the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program can be found on the CDC’s website by clicking here. Anyone looking to pick up the free masks should contact their local stores to confirm that they are available. At this time, only adult size masks are available; high quality smaller size masks for children will be made available in the near future.

State Extends Booster Deadline for Healthcare Workers:

On January 25, the State updated three health orders, extending the deadline for the booster requirement for health care workers and all employees in high-risk congregate settings, including nursing homes. According to the orders, all affected workers currently eligible for boosters must be “fully vaccinated and boosted” for COVID-19 by receiving all recommended doses of the primary series of vaccines and a vaccine booster dose by no later than March 1, 2022 (instead of February 1). 

The orders apply to workers in:

All other terms of the order remain unchanged.

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.