Despite warming summer weather in Orange County, the county’s daily COVID-19 totals, along with COVID-19 hospitalizations, are increasing. On Friday, June 17, the Orange County Health Care Agency reported six deaths, with 3,114 new COVID-19 cases. Friday marks the second time in one week the county has reported daily cases surpassing 3,000.

In terms of hospitalizations, 178 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, with 23 listed in county intensive care units.

Andrew Noymer, Associate Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health at UC Irvine, said he is aware of the increases but adds that COVID is milder now, in comparison to the last two years.

Still, Noymer predicts that the virus will continue following the patterns in the summer, as it has in the winter.

“What’s catching my eye is that we’ve got a mini-wave now, just like the wave in Southern California of July 2020 and August 2021,” Noymer said. “The winters have been the punishing waves, I expect that trend to continue.”

With COVID-19 numbers increasing at the beginning of summer, Noymer remains optimistic, but with caution, adding that the number of hospitalized patients might not reflect the true picture of COVID-19 within the community, considering that hospitals are including incidental cases within COVID-19.

“At one point we had over 2,000 hospitalized with COVID-19 – that’s not incidental,” he said. “COVID-19 is milder, there’s no doubt about it, but we’re also more vaccinated and Omicron doesn’t send people to the hospital. I’m still cautious, it’s still a new disease to which we know nowhere near enough.”

As of June 14, more than 2 million people in Orange County have received full vaccination status. However, in terms of booster shots, only about half of the fully-vaccinated population has opted to receive their booster.

This may be a future cause for concern, considering findings released by the New England Journal of Medicine earlier this week. On June 15, a study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that fully vaccinated individuals, who have not had a booster shot, have no lasting protection against the COVID-19 Omicron variant.

“Long COVID-19 can happen with mild COVID-19 cases. They’re starting to find ‘immune dysregulation’ — which is just a fancy word for saying it messes with your immune system,” Noymer explained. “We don’t really know how that’s going to play out in terms of what that means. It could mean that it makes us more susceptible to other pathogens.”

In terms of a grading scale, Noymer said more could be done to prevent more from getting ill, but options are limited, considering that restrictions against large events are no longer a viable option.

However, even without COVID-19 restrictions, Noymer said he would grade the current COVID-19 situation a B+, in Orange County.

However, Noymer emphasized that the real test will come this winter.

“I think more could be done for people to mask, even if you’re the only one. I think more could be done to prepare people for how bad I think it’s going to be in the winter,” he said. “[We are not studying hard enough for the winter test], we’re going to cram the night before, like we always do.”

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