While the summer surge of COVID-19 may be decreasing in Orange County, new guidance from the California Department of Health suggests that vaccinated individuals may be at low risk for developing severe COVID-19 cases, and are less likely to spread the virus.

On Monday, August 30, the Orange County Health Care Agency reported 1,525 new COVID-19 cases, with 18 new COVID-19 related deaths. 

While it should be noted that the county’s August 30 COVID-19 totals include the weekend statistics, health officials continue to point to COVID-19 hospitalizations as an indicator of the virus’ presence within the community.  

As of August 30, the HCA COVID-19 dashboard listed 546 patients, with 139 needing treatment in intensive care. With only slight declines over the past week, O.C.’s current hospital and ICU capacity are higher than August 2020 numbers by more than 200 people. 

Last summer, on August 30, there were 317 people hospitalized and the ICU total was 98.

Still, a glimmer of hope may be on the horizon. 

On August 24, HCA issued a statement backing the California Department of Health’s updated recommendations for fully vaccinated individuals.

Within the key points of the revised recommendations, issued on August 23, CDPH confirmed that it is investigating the duration of protection the COVID-19 vaccines provide against the virus.  

However, CDPH said that fully vaccinated individuals may, “resume activities that they did prior to the pandemic.” 

Additionally, CDPH points to research that suggests that vaccinated individuals are less likely to develop asymptomatic cases, and are less likely to spread the virus.  

While the key points include recommendations for face masks in public settings, the new guidance indicates that a fully vaccinated individual can skip quarantine in the event there is suspected or confirmed contact with COVID-19 — if the fully vaccinated individual is asymptomatic. 

In an August 24 press release, Dr. Clayton Chau, HCA Director and County Health Officer, offered some optimism, adding that while hospitalizations continue to remain high — with only 21.8% of adult ICU beds available — he sees the summer wave slowing, with the county’s daily case rates and hospitalization beginning to stabilize.

Chau also echoed the need for more people to get vaccinated.  

“We are finally beginning to see a slight drop in our cases and hospitalizations, but until more people are vaccinated, prevention measures will continue to be necessary for everyone, regardless of your vaccination status,” Chau said. “I want to re-emphasize the importance of wearing a mask indoors. Face masks are an extra precautionary measure that helps to reduce the spread of COVID-19. I encourage you to please wear a mask indoors, even in small groups. It not only protects you but also those around you who may be immunocompromised, at risk of severe disease, not fully vaccinated or not yet eligible for the vaccine.”

In terms of vaccination totals in Orange County, HCA reports that as of August 23, there are 1,989,131 individuals fully vaccinated on all platforms, and more than 2 million with at least one dose.