While it seems that the number of people hospitalized for Coronavirus in Orange County stabilized this week, there is concern that daily death counts seem to be creeping up, now well into the double digits with 22 people reported as killed by Covid on Thursday. 

Orange Health Care Agency officials on Thursday also confirmed that they are increasingly transferring Covid patients from hospitals into skilled nursing facilities.

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An unknown number of Orange County’s coronavirus hospital patients have been moved to long term care facilities and skilled nursing facilities as hospitalization numbers ticked up the past couple weeks.

“Yes, hospitalized COVID-19 positive patients are being discharged to long term care facilities. The OC Health Care Agency (HCA) does not track individual transfers. However, when a hospitalized COVID-19 positive patient is transferred to a Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF), that patient would be subtracted from the hospitalized count (by the sending hospital) and added to the SNF count via the state daily reporting,” HCA staff said in a Thursday email. 

A daily situation report from the county Office of Emergency Medical Services on Thursday shows there’s been an increase of over 500 virus-positive patients in skilled nursing facility cases since the beginning of the month to 1,837 cases. The report doesn’t note which cases are transfers and which ones are virus cases originating from the facilities. 

At a Thursday news conference, OC interim health officer Dr. Clayton Chau said he hasn’t heard of any surges at the skilled nursing facilities. 

In normal times, Chau said, “a patient gets into an acute hospital and …  the next level of care that they need is a skilled nursing facility, then the hospital, as well as the family and their insurance company, will try and find a skilled nursing facility that is appropriate to place people.” 

“As far as I know, I have not heard any surge in skilled nursing facilities,” Chau said. “I’ve not heard staff reporting that we’ve had an issue yet.” 

UC Irvine epidemiologist Andrew Noymer said the transfers to nursing facilities could explain why hospitalizations are remaining relatively steady. 

“So that could explain why all the hospital numbers looked like they plateaued,” Noymer said in a Thursday phone interview. 

But, Noymer said, the deaths continue to increase. 

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