Orange County's case rates and hospitalizations continued an upswing, corresponding with an expected winter wave that has happened in prior years, according to data released Thursday by the Orange County Health Care Agency.
Hospitalizations of COVID-19-infected patients have been on a steady rise since Nov. 11, when there were 105 patients. There were 222 patients as of Nov. 23 and 299 as of Wednesday. The number of patients in intensive care have mirrored the same trend with the number climbing from 16 on Nov. 12 to 38 as of Wednesday. There were 32 ICU patients as of Nov. 23.
"That's the second straight precipitous increase," said Andrew Noymer, an epidemiologist and UC Irvine professor of population health and disease prevention, referring to last week's jump up in patients.
"And the ICU has gone up too, but more modestly," Noymer said. "The hospitalizations are back to summer levels, so it will be interesting to see where they go. It will exceed summer levels, but probably won't get to last year's Omicron-driven levels."
A year ago at this time, there were 189 patients hospitalized with a COVID-19 infection, but by Christmas, the levels were where they are now. Throughout the pandemic, there have been summer and winter waves with each wave smaller than the last corresponding wave.
"I firmly predict an increase in hospitalizations, but I'm not willing to say it will be just like last year," as the new Omicron variant took root, Noymer said.
A new variant of Omicron, known as Omicron BQ, could be behind the most recent wave. It appears to be supplanting Omicron BA.5, according to OC HCA data.
Noymer said it is unclear how repeat infections of COVID-19 affect the general public long-term, but he encouraged avoiding it.
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