Rising caseloads and hospitalizations mean Los Angeles County’s COVID community transmission risk category has been downgraded from “low” to “moderate.”

The county health director, Dr. Barbara Ferrer announced the change during a Thursday briefing when LA County reported 4,725 new cases

The change was expected after more than 4,300 new COVID cases were reported Wednesday in Los Angeles County, where hospital admissions are also on the rise after an encouraging decline earlier this year. There were 363 COVID-positive patients in county hospitals on Wednesday, up from 327 the day before.

The number of COVID hospitals had been falling in recent months. The number fell to 219 on April 20 but has been rising steadily ever since.

These key numbers help establish health safety protocols in LA County. A sharp surge and widespread community transmission could trigger a renewal of mandatory indoor mask-wearing rules.

Here’s what you should know about the numbers and what they mean for LA County’s risk level as determined by the CDC.

When Would LA County’s Mask Mandates Return?

Los Angeles County was downgraded from the community risk category of low to moderate on Thursday, as expected.

The CDC updates its classifications every Thursday.

According to federal and county data, the county’s seven-day cumulative rate of new COVID cases rose to 202 per 100,000 residents, up from about 176 per 100,000 last week. With a tally over 200, the county is now considered to have “moderate” COVID levels, a designation that includes recommendations for increased precautions against the spread of the virus.

The change in category would not necessarily have an immediate impact. The county has already implemented the CDC’s recommendations for “intermediate category” areas, such as masks on public transit, widespread availability of vaccinations, and guidance on improving indoor ventilation.

But if there is another spike in COVID hospitalizations, it could put LA County in the “high” risk category and the likely accompanying indoor mask-wearing rules.

Is Los Angeles County at risk of slipping into the ‘high’ COVID risk category?

According to CDC guidelines, counties will move to high in the moderate category when the rate of new virus-related hospitalizations reaches 10 per 100,000 population or when 10% of the county’s occupied hospital beds are occupied by COVID-positive patients.

The county’s current rate of new admissions is 3.1 per 100,000 people, and the rate of hospital beds occupied by COVID-positive patients is just under 2%.

dr Ferrer previously told the board that the county will likely move into the CDC’s “moderate” COVID risk category this week. She said she is confident the county will avoid slipping into the high category.

“While we are discouraged that the pandemic is not over, I am reassured that with the resources available, we can continue to enjoy our time together and participating in the activities we love,” she said.

The 4,384 new cases reported Wednesday brought the county’s total throughout the pandemic to 2,922,210. The average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus rose to 3.2% on Wednesday from 2.6% on Tuesday, although it was still relatively low.

Ten COVID deaths were also reported, bringing the county’s cumulative virus-related death toll to 32,055. Health officials have found that most people who die from COVID have a variety of underlying health conditions.

Similarly, most hospitalized patients infected with COVID were hospitalized for reasons other than the virus, health officials said. Many only found out they were infected after being tested at hospital admission.

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