Orange County continues to battle the COVID-19 surge, as double-digit deaths have occurred more than twice in the last week. 

On Friday, Jan. 28, the Orange County Health Agency reported 4,751 new COVID-19 cases, with 29 deaths — the county’s second-highest daily death total in one week. On Thursday, Jan. 27, OCHCA reported 31 deaths.  

The county has now surpassed 500,000 total cases, as of Friday, Jan. 28, with 6,066 total COVID-19 related deaths, according to the county health agency COVID-19 dashboard. 

In terms of hospitalization, currently, there are 1,022 people hospitalized with COVID-19. Of that total 178 are in the intensive care unit. Capacity inside the ICU continues to remain below 20%, at 17.6%, with 58% of ventilators available. 

As for vaccinations in Orange County, a total of 2,385,501 individuals are fully vaccinated and 1,095,438 are fully vaccinated with a booster shot, as of January 24. 

Locally in Irvine, between January 18 and January 25, there were 3,292 COVID-19 cases, increasing the city’s accumulative total to 31,713, as of Friday, Jan. 28.

Yet, while the steep COVID-19 increases from earlier this month are beginning to flatten, county health officials are going cautious regarding the health care system’s ability to handle another surge. 

Regina Chinsio-Kwong, Deputy County Health Officer, said vigilance is needed, especially as families come together for the Lunar New Year. 

“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,” Chinsio-Kwong said. “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.”

While testing and vaccination continue to remain at the top of the list in terms of protection against COVID-19, residents in Orange County will now be able to pick up free KN-95 masks. 

In a statement, Dr. Clayton Chau, HCA Director and County Health Officer, explained that these specific masks, which offer the best protection against the highly contagious Omicron variant, will be available commercially at pharmacies. 

“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,” Chau said. “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, Alpha XR, Kroger, Rite Aid, Publix, Walmart and Sam’s Club.”