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The OC Health Care Agency encourages county residents to stay informed on COVID-19 changes to access for testing, vaccines and treatments

To continue protecting themselves and their loved ones against COVID-19, the OC Health Care Agency (HCA) encourages residents to stay informed on local COVID-19 community spread, stay vigilant about preventive measures and learn where to access vaccines, testing and treatment options as the California State of Emergency (SOE) and Federal Public Health Emergency (PHE) end.

COVID Trends in Orange County
Orange County remains in the Low COVID-19 Community level according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC). Locally, COVID-19 case positivity worsened over the last 2 weeks with the case rate per 100,000 per day increasing from 4.9% to 6.2%, overall testing positivity increasing from 6.1% to 7.7%, hospitalizations increasing from 171 to 182, and Intensive Care Unit (ICU) hospitalizations increasing slightly from 17 to 19 between February 8th and February 22, 2023.

The highly transmissible Omicron variant XBB 1.5 remains the predominant strain locally and nationally. However, epidemiolocal studies revealed no difference in disease severity when compared with the most common previous subvariant of Omicron BQ.1.

COVID-19 Bivalent Vaccine Booster
With COVID-19 cases rising in the community, residents are strongly encouraged to continue practicing preventive measures to reduce the risk of developing severe illness. Studies continue to show that bivalent booster vaccines protect against severe COVID-19 disease and reduce the risk of developing complications such as Long COVID.

As of 2/27/2023, 73.5% of OC residents have completed a primary series, and 45.3% have received at least one booster. However, only 17.1% of all OC residents have received a bivalent booster vaccine and only 40.9% of those age 65+, those at highest risk for severe COVID-19 disease, received a bivalent booster.

Local data indicates that for persons 65 and older, hospitalizations has been 8.66 times more likely for those who did not receive the bivalent vaccine (includes those who received no vaccine and those who received some vaccine but no bivalent booster) compared to those who received the bivalent booster. For the same group, death was 5.67 times more likely for those who did not receive the bivalent vaccine.

According to a recently published article, vaccinated individuals who received the bivalent COVID-19 vaccine were 14 times less likely to die from COVID-19 compared to those who received no vaccine and 3 times less likely to die compared with those who received only the original COVID-19 vaccine.1

The HCA continues to utilize the California Department of Public Health’s (CDPH) vaccination platform, MyTurn. Vaccination appointments can be scheduled through myturn.ca.gov, www.vaccine.gov and www.ochealthinfo.com or by calling (800) 914-4887.

COVID-19 Testing
Testing continues to be an effective means to minimize the spread of COVID-19. Locations for free testing can be searched on No-Cost COVID-19 Testing locator and individuals can order at www.covidtests.gov or call (800) 232-0233 for support in multiple languages. Individuals with insurance can also order no-cost at home test kits from their service providers.

COVID-19 Treatment
Individuals who do contract COVID-19 are encouraged to seek treatment such as Paxlovid (nirmatrelvir, ritonavir), which can reduce the risk of severe illness if started early. Paxlovid remains effective against the current circulating COVID-19 variant and is readily available through community health care providers.

Impacts of the End of the California State of Emergency (SOE) and Federal Public Health Emergency (PHE)

  • Following the end of California COVID-19 SOE (February 28, 2023), coverage for COVID-19 vaccines, tests and several COVID-19 therapeutics will continue while the Federal PHE remains in place. Once the Federal PHE ends on May 11, 2023, California residents who are insured will continue to have coverage for COVID-19 vaccines, tests and COVID therapeutics for an additional 6 months after the end of the Federal PHE because of California Senate Bills 510 and 1473.
  • Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC) has created an FAQ for those who have health plans covered under DMHC. https://www.dmhc.ca.gov/Portals/0/Docs/DO/COVID-FactSheet2022.pdf
  • On December 15, 2022, the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board (Cal/OSHA) adopted non-emergency COVID-19 preventions. These regulations took effect on February 3, 2023, and will remain in effect for two years after the effective date. Employers can read details HERE.

President Biden announced plans to end the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE) on May 11, 2023. Governor Newsom announced an end to the COVID-19 State of Emergency (SOE) at 11:59 pm on February 28, 2023. The Orange County Local Health Emergency and Local Emergency also end concurrently with termination of the California SOE on February 28, 2023.

The OC Health Care Agency (HCA) is a regional interdisciplinary health jurisdiction and an accredited health department, charged with protecting and promoting individual, family and community health through partnership and coordination of public and private sector resources. Visit www.ochealthinfo.com to learn more about services and resources.

This article was released by the OC Health Care Agency.