The Evidence Base

Informing Policy in Health, Economics & Well-Being
A collaboration with
USC Dornsife Center for economic and social research

Orange County COVID-19 Hospitalizations Up 130% Since June 1

Editor’s note: This analysis is a collaboration between the USC Schaeffer Center for Health Policy & Economics and the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management’s Medical Industry Leadership Institute, and Management Information Systems Research Center.

Coronavirus cases have increased rapidly across most of California in the past six weeks. While much of the reporting has focused on the relative increase in young adults who are testing positive compared to early in the pandemic, and the relatively stable mortality rate, we find counties across the state are seeing significant increases in cases that require hospitalization and ICU care.

Below we graph the trend in COVID-19 patients who are hospitalized, as well as those in ICU care, between March 29 and July 13th for nine counties in California. The graphs are normalized to account for differences in county population.

The graphs show a significant reversal of the downward trend seen earlier in the pandemic. As of July 13, Orange County reported 21.3 COVID-19 hospitalizations per 100,000, surpassing L.A. County’s rate of 20.4. Both rates are significantly higher than peaks seen in early May.

While these counties are outliers, all counties graphed are showing significant increases in hospitalizations. For example, while still much lower, Santa Barbara County has reported an almost 280% increase in hospitalizations since June 1 and is now ranked 3rd of the counties graphed.

Though lagging behind total hospitalization trends, the rate of patients in ICU beds has also increased in recent weeks. Since mid-June, all counties have trended upward and Orange County now far surpasses the rate of other counties graphed.

Because the total number of hospital and ICU beds is changing to account for the influx of coronavirus patients, analyzing overall hospital capacity by county is challenging. Regardless, these numbers are worrisome and point to a potentially strained healthcare system, especially given the record number of positive cases and positivity rate that the state has reported in the past week.

Los Angeles has always been an outlier, but circumstances have changed around the state. Perhaps most strikingly—and worryingly—Orange County has emerged as a hotspot with an ever accelerating rate of ICU use.