COVID-19: LA County moves back into ‘high transmission’ category as cases rise, health officials say

LOS ANGELES COUNTY (CNS) – Exactly two weeks after the Thanksgiving holiday and its associated gatherings of family and friends, Los Angeles County is seeing a resultant increase in COVID-19 cases, the director said today. public health, calling the trend the possible start of a new winter surge of infections.

In an online briefing, Barbara Ferrer said the increase was visible on December 1, when the county’s seven-day average daily number of new cases exceeded 1,000 – a 19% increase from the previous week. .

She also noted a resulting increase in hospitalizations, with the daily number of COVID patients approaching around 600.

“We expect the increases to continue on the heels of our Thanksgiving rallies, but already, based on trends, we are looking at the possible beginnings of a winter surge,” Ferrer said.

She said the current average daily rate of new infections in the county has risen to 13 per 100,000 people from 8 per 100,000 people a week ago.

The seven-day cumulative rate of infections rose to 113 per 100,000, bringing the county back into the “high” transmission category as defined by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. ” transmission category.

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This category requires a county to have a seven-day cumulative transmission rate of less than 100 cases per 100,000 population.

Ferrer said the increase in cases in the county was also reflected in schools.

“In the week following the Thanksgiving break, cases among college students in particular reached their highest level since late September,” Ferrer said. “If, as we suspect, this increase in cases reflects transmission that has taken place during holiday gatherings, we should take this as an early warning about the upcoming December holidays. ”

Ferrer said infections among students are likely due to Thanksgiving gatherings, as transmission in schools remains low thanks to strict infection control measures on campus, such as regular testing and mandatory mask-wearing.

She acknowledged that with the widespread availability of vaccines and the benefit of greater experience in preventing and treating infections, the county can be considered “much better off” than last winter.

But she insisted, “all the increases in cases are worrying”.

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“I don’t want to minimize the fact that we continue to be back in what the CDC classifies as the ‘high’ level of transmission,” she said.

“So we have a lot of community transmission going on. And when there’s a lot of community transmission going on and there’s lots and lots of opportunity for people to mix, you run the risk of those numbers continuing to grow. And every time they grow and we see more and more cases, we all know that unfortunately leads to a higher number of people who will end up in hospital and die tragically.

COVID vaccines will likely limit the impact of a major winter surge on hospitals and the county’s overall health care system, Ferrer said, noting that while those vaccinated can become infected, they are less likely to become seriously ill and to require hospitalization.

But she said more people needed to get vaccinated to avoid overburdening hospitals.

“There are a lot of things we all need to do to slow transmission that obviously not all of us are doing,” she said, urging vaccinated residents to get vaccinated to counter waning immunity. original vaccines.

She said five million people in the county are eligible for booster shots, but only 1.6 million booster doses have been given.

“All of you who are waiting, please don’t wait any longer,” she said. “Boosters are essential to add extra protection.”

The county reported 15 more COVID-19 deaths on Thursday, bringing the death toll to 27,288.

An additional 1,718 new infections were also reported, giving the county a pandemic total of 1,541,886.

According to state figures, there were 667 positive COVID-19 patients in Los Angeles County hospitals on Thursday, the same as Wednesday.

The number of those patients being treated in intensive care was 158, down from 151 a day earlier.

The rolling average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus was 1.4% on Thursday.

According to the most recent figures, 83% of county residents aged 12 and older have received at least one dose of the vaccine and 75% are fully vaccinated. Of all eligible residents 5 years of age and older, 77% have received at least one dose and 69% are fully immunized.

Of more than 6.15 million fully vaccinated people in the county, 84,931 have tested positive, or about 1.38%.

A total of 2,798 vaccinated people were hospitalized, a rate of 0.046%, and 537 died, a rate of 0.009%.

While the county’s public health department has identified a total of four cases of the new omicron variant of COVID-19 — and Long Beach has confirmed an additional case — Ferrer said the delta variant remains the dominant strain of the virus in the county, accounting for over 99% of cases that undergo genetic sequencing.

Ferrer said the county is currently sequencing 25% of all positive cases to identify COVID variants.

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