Prior to the weekend of July 4, Los Angeles County today reported 6,529 daily Covid infections, which is nearly the highest number the county has seen since early February. Only the 7,209 recorded on May 31 is higher.
Barbara Ferrer, director of LA County Public Health, said earlier this week that the daily number of infections may be leveling off, but today’s count plus a test positivity rate that has nearly doubled in just over two weeks seems to indicate otherwise.
On Tuesday, June 14, LA’s test positivity was 6.5%. Today the rate is 12.9%. That’s a huge jump for a number that’s not just a percentage of the total number of tests, but a seven-day average.
Meanwhile, the number of Covid-positive patients in hospitals in Los Angeles County has jumped 32 people to 779, according to the latest state figures. Of those patients, 77 were treated in intensive care, up from 68 the day before.
Ferrer told the Board of Trustees on Tuesday that although hospitals had an average of 720 Covid patients per day in the past week, a 16% increase from the previous week, the number of new admissions has actually fallen.
According to Ferrer, the county currently has an average of 6.6 new daily Covid admissions per 100,000 residents, down from 7.3 per 100,000 a week ago. It was the first drop in that percentage in recent weeks.
The rate is being watched closely because if the county reaches 10 new daily admissions per 100,000 residents, it will move to the “high” virus activity category as defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If the province remains in the high tier for two consecutive weeks, officials will again impose a mandatory indoor mask-wearing mandate.
Health officials had initially estimated the province would reach the high tier by the end of June, but as the pace of new admissions slows, the estimate was pushed back to mid-July last week. On Tuesday, Ferrer said if the current pace continues, the province will not reach the high tier until the end of July.
However, there are two wild cards.
The first is the increased prevalence of the more transmissible BA.5 and BA.4 Omicron variants, which are also thought to be better at evading the immunity conferred by vaccines and/or previous infections.
While the number of identified cases of each variant in Los Angeles is very small, so are the number of positive samples that have been genomically sequenced to determine the causal Covid strain.
According to CDC data, BA.5 and BA.4 now represent the majority of new cases seen last week in the US and more specifically in the three-state region, made up of California, Arizona and Nevada.
The second wildcard is the upcoming holiday weekend.
In a statement Tuesday afternoon, Ferrer urged residents to exercise caution against the spread of the virus on July 4, primarily by getting vaccinated.
“Residents can also reduce the chances of getting or spreading Covid-19 by wearing a mask and taking a home test before indoor gatherings and events,” she said. “If someone tests positive or feels sick, they should stay away from others to avoid infecting others. As we celebrate this weekend, let’s make an effort to take actions that protect our friends, relatives and colleagues who may be at increased risk.”