Los Angeles County’s coronavirus-positive hospitalizations are rising again, prompting health officials to urge residents to put masks back on if they’ve stopped doing so.
LA County already requires mask-wearing on public transit and at its airports, and Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer on Monday urged residents to wear masks in schools, stores and places of worship. work.
“This would give us a chance to slow the spread while continuing to increase the number of residents and workers up to date with their vaccinations, because vaccines give us the best protection against serious illness and death,” Ferrer said in a statement.
Ferrer has strongly recommended the use of indoor masks since the LA County Public Health Department ended its 7.5-month universal mask order on March 4. But Ferrer’s message appeared to take on a more urgent tone on Monday, with positive coronavirus hospitalizations rising 29% in the past week, to 312 as of Sunday.
The 29% week-over-week increase in positive coronavirus hospitalizations was the largest weekly percentage increase in LA County since mid-January, following Omicron’s spike.
However, the number of positive coronavirus hospitalizations remains low. COVID-19 deaths reported daily in LA County also remain low, at around eight deaths per day.
“While it is reassuring to note the relatively low rates of hospitalizations and deaths, getting infected for many is still very risky and something to be avoided where possible,” Ferrer said. “As has been the case throughout the pandemic, keeping others safe often requires many of us to align ourselves with reasonable security measures.”
The figures follow rising coronavirus cases, which rose to more than 2,900 cases a day, a rate not seen since late February. That’s a 16% increase from the previous week’s rate of around 2,500 cases per day.
The latest case rate equates to 204 cases per week per 100,000 people, according to a Times analysis. This means LA County is on track to officially move from a low COVID-19 community level to a medium level by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A county with 200 or more cases per week per 100,000 population is automatically considered an area at an average COVID-19 community level.
At an average COVID-19 community level, the CDC recommends that people at risk of serious illness from COVID-19 consider wearing masks. These are more lax guidelines than those issued by LA County and California health officials, who have strongly recommended the continued use of masks in indoor public places since mandatory mask orders ended.
LA County is still far from reaching the thresholds for a high community level of COVID-19, in which the CDC recommends the use of universal masks, and in which county health officials have said they would re-implement a universal mask order in indoor public places.
The rate of new weekly coronavirus-positive hospitalizations in LA County is less than a third of the rate needed to reach the threshold for a high community level of COVID-19, according to CDC data reported Thursday.
Factors in increased viral transmission have been a decrease in mask use and the introduction of even more contagious Omicron subvariants. The BA.2 sub-variant of Omicron is more transmissible than the first version of Omicron that dominated in winter, BA.1. BA.2 now accounts for around 85% of coronavirus samples analyzed.
Additionally, there are other sub-variants of Omicron that are said to be more contagious than BA.2 and are seen more often.
BA.2.12.1 now accounts for about 12% of coronavirus samples tested in LA County as of mid-April, and BA.2.3 and its relatives account for about 9% of samples.
“With the proliferation of highly infectious Omicron sublines, it is easier for infected people to pass the virus on unknowingly, resulting in many of us experiencing greater spread associated with our gatherings and our travels,” Ferrer said.
The nation is grappling with a new surge related to Omicron BA.2 and BA.2.12.1 subvariants, Dr. Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute in La Jolla, wrote in a blog post on Sunday. .
But the official report of 90,000 daily coronavirus cases nationwide – double the rate three weeks ago – “belies the true toll of the current wave, as most people with symptoms are testing at home or don’t test at all,” Topol wrote.
“The actual number of cases is likely at least 500,000 per day, well above all previous waves from the United States except Omicron,” Topol said. “The bunk that the cases are not important is nonsense. These are infections that lead to more cases, they lead to long COVIDs, they lead to illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths. They are also the basis of new variants.
BA.2.12.1 is an Omicron sub-variant to watch as it will likely dominate the land in the coming weeks.
BA.2.12.1 is important to watch because it has a key, unique mutation not seen in the first Omicron subvariant, he said. This is noteworthy because it is plausible that people who survived the first subvariant of Omicron are likely to be infected again.
Another potential area of concern is that the Omicron-specific vaccine under development was designed against the first subvariant of Omicron, and the vaccine “may not provide strong protection against BA.2.12.1 or any new sub-variant of Omicron…we will deal with it this summer,” Topol wrote.
Topol said he was also concerned about a reduction in the effectiveness of vaccinations against serious illness and death.
“Before Omicron, we could, with a reminder, assume that there was well over 90% to 95% vaccine efficacy against severe disease,” Topol said. “It is clear, however, from several reports, including the UK Health Security Agency and Kaiser Permanente, that this level of protection has dropped to around 80%. … This represents a substantial drop.
Topol said it was important for US officials to take a more aggressive stance in the fight against the pandemic, including convincing more people to get vaccinated, Topol said.
“It means setting priorities, funding and realizing, unfortunately, that the pandemic is far from over,” Topol said. He wrote that our current level of deaths from COVID-19 is still more than 10 times worse than the number we see from the flu, and “this is completely unacceptable.”
“As hard as it is to cope mentally,” Topol wrote, “we need to plan something worse than Omicron in the months ahead.”