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Orange County Likely To Fall Back To Purple Tier As COVID-19 Cases Rise, Officials Say

SANTA ANA (CBSLA) -- Orange County will likely fall back into the purple tier of the state's reopening map, county CEO Frank Kim said Friday.

The county reported another 598 new cases, bringing the cumulative case total to 64,058.

"It's not a record, but it pretty much puts a bow on it -- we'll probably be purple two weeks in a row. That ship has sailed,'' Kim said of the new cases.

The county reported two more virus-related deaths, raising the death toll to 1,522. Both people who died were residents of skilled nursing facilities.

The number of hospitalizations related to COVID-19 decreased from 251 on Thursday to 244 on Friday. The number of ICU patients increased from 89 to 95.

Orange County Board of Supervisors Vice Chairman Andrew Do said that next week the county will announce a plan to provide virus testing home kits to residents to help stop the spread.

The county has acquired 500,000 test kits that can detect coronavirus from saliva. Plans are to make them available at public libraries and city halls throughout the county, Do said.

"We want it to be mobile and at the neighborhood level, so people can see testing as part of their holiday safe practices,'' he said. "Before you go see your grandparents, two or three days before you get tested, and after the family get-together, you wait two or three days and get tested again. Then that way you know going in or coming out of a get-together you're safe and the people you are with are safe.''

Experts recommend the two- to three-day buffer because it can take that long before the infection is detected from a test.

"We haven't worked through the protocol yet, but by next week we'll have a program that will include locations that are easily accessible to people,'' Do said.

Do called the rise in cases "alarming."

"It points to a very difficult winter season coming up, and couple that with the holiday season and people need to be very vigilant," he said.

Officials are aiming for an average of 130 new cases per day so that the county can scale back to the orange tier and allow more businesses to reopen. But the county has to stay under 229 new daily cases to remain in the red tier.

The county's positivity rate, which is reported each Tuesday, actually declined from 3.6% to 3.3% this week, and the daily case rate per 100,000 population decreased from 6 to 5.6.

(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)

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