A sharp rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations has prompted Los Angeles public health officials to urge people to go back into dressing up in indoor public places, even when it’s not required.

Many people have adopted the habit of not wearing face coverings while shopping or in other indoor public places since LA County is no longer a mask requirement.

“We’re going about our business as usual and it’s a recipe for disaster,” said Dr. Jerry Abraham from Kedren Community Health Center.

Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer told the county board of directors on Tuesday that the seven-day cumulative median rate of new cases is now 185 per 100,000 people — up from last Thursday’s rate of 176. When that rate reaches 200 per 100,000 residents, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will move the district from the community’s “low” COVID level to “moderate.”

As recently as May 4, the US surpassed 1 million COVID-19 deaths, according to data compiled by NBC News.

dr Abraham said we pay a price for being more relaxed about masks.

COVID hospitalizations in LA County are up 29% week-on-week, the highest increase since January, and the total number of cases is up 16% and continues its steady rise.

“I think it’s important that we continue to wear our masks so that we can protect each other,” Abraham said.

LA County Health Director is urging people to wear masks if there are questions about it. Joel Grover reporting for NBC4 News on Thursday, May 12, 2022.

Health experts are not only urging people to put their masks back on, but are also not properly testing themselves to see if they are infected. Providence St. John Nurse Boaz Hepner says it’s important to wait a day or two after you start feeling symptoms.

“Most people who test right away have a false sense of security and think, ‘Oh, the test is negative, I don’t have COVID,'” Hepner said. “But what you need to understand when your symptoms start, usually there isn’t enough virus around to actually detect the COVID right away.”

Health experts say many who contract COVID don’t realize that effective treatments are available at little or no cost. As new sub-variants continue to spread rapidly, experts say the vaccines currently available are less effective, even when it comes to preventing serious illness and death – which is why mask-wearing remains crucial.

“We’re all in this together. The better we work together, the more we’ll put that behind us,” Abraham said.

Experts say the case rate is likely to be even higher if people are testing at home or contracting COVID and not testing at all.

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