LOS ANGELES (CNS) — As expected, the rising rate of spread of COVID-19 in Los Angeles County led to it being downgraded from the federal government’s “low” virus level to “medium” on Thursday — prompting calls from county officials to get in indoors and get vaccinated and refreshed and tested at the first sign of illness.
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 above 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 move will not prompt any immediate changes in public health regulations in the county, which already maintained enhanced precautionary advice consistent with the CDC’s guidelines below the “intermediate” ranking — such as hospitals and homeless shelters, widespread vaccine availability and access to testing, including testing at home.
The county still doesn’t mandate indoor mask-wearing in all public facilities, but it strongly encourages it. Masks would become mandatory indoors as the county slips into ‘high’ COVID levels. Reaching that mark would require a sharp increase in COVID-related hospital admissions.
The number of COVID-positive patients has increased in recent weeks, and the percentage of emergency room visits linked to the virus rose to 5% in the past week — up from 4% the previous week. So far, however, the overall statistics are still well within the CDC parameters for the “intermediate” level of COVID.
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.
Barbara Ferrer, director of public health for the county, said the county’s current rate of new admissions is 3.4 per 100,000 residents and the rate of hospital beds occupied by COVID-positive patients is just under 1.7%.
Ferrer said she remains “hopeful” that the county will avoid slipping into the “high” COVID community level, but only if residents and businesses are not “shy” about safety practices “that are known to reduce transmission.” “, such as B. Masking indoors and making sure people are up to date on vaccinations.
The recent increase in cases has been largely attributed to the spread of the highly infectious BA.2 subvariant of the Omicron variant, which triggered a large spike in cases over the winter. But Ferrer on Thursday reported a dramatic spike in cases caused by the variant’s even more contagious BA.2.12.1 offshoot. According to the latest results, 27% of cases that underwent special tests to identify variants were classified as BA.2.12.1, up from 3% a month ago.
The district has also now identified six cases of BA.4 and one case of BA.5, two variants that have caused widespread infections in South Africa.
Ferrer noted that the currently available COVID vaccines are still effective in preventing the variants from causing serious illness. She reiterated her call for residents to be vaccinated and receive booster shots as needed.
“The task before us is similar to the work we’ve had to do elsewhere for the last two and a half years — slowing transmission,” she said.
District Manager Holly Mitchell echoed Ferrer’s comments.
“We must continue to recognize the importance of masking indoors…testing if we are exposed or if we intend to travel – before we travel and after we come back, testing if we feel sick or if we have been there.” a big gathering and you get vaxed and boosted,” Mitchell said.
The county reported 4,725 new COVID infections Thursday, bringing the total to 2,926,848 throughout the pandemic. Nine more virus-related deaths were also reported, bringing the cumulative local death toll to 32,064.
There were 379 COVID-positive patients in county hospitals as of Thursday, up from 363 on Wednesday. The number of patients treated in the intensive care unit was 53, up from 55 the day before.
The average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus rose to 3.5% from 3.2% the day before.