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latest news COVID deaths on the rise in Los Angeles, but Delta more to blame than Omicron

Los Angeles County recently noted an increase in coronavirus deaths, but officials believe they are mostly linked to the Delta variant, rather than the prolific Omicron strain that has fueled record infections in the county and throughout the state.

Over the past week, the county has averaged 24 reported COVID-19 deaths per day, up from about 14 a month ago. LA reported 39 COVID-19 deaths on Wednesday and 45 on Thursday — the latter being the highest daily death toll recorded over the fall and winter.

Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Thursday she believed there were still people infected with the previously dominant Delta variant dying in LA County hospitals.

“Many people are sick for a period of time and many are hospitalized for a period of time before passing away, so it’s likely that most of the deaths we see are still Delta-related, but not entirely,” Ferrer said.

Dr Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, expressed the same sentiment earlier this week.

“Given the number of cases, we could see some deaths from Omicron. But I suspect the deaths we’re seeing now are still from Delta,” she said Wednesday.

She added: “We will need to follow these deaths over the next two weeks to see the impact of Omicron on mortality.”

Across the state, an average of 108 Californians have died from COVID-19 per day over the past week, according to data compiled by The Times. This is more than double the level of two weeks ago.

Hospital situation

There is mounting evidence that Omicron spreads much faster than its cousin Delta, but causes less severe disease for many.

But the unprecedented rise in the total number of cases remains a challenge.

Los Angeles County hospitals are struggling to provide medical care, hampered by staffing shortages far worse than last winter’s coronavirus outbreak.

Many healthcare workers, exhausted by the pandemic, have quit, and many of those remaining have tested positive for the virus and are at home in isolation. And healthcare facilities are busier this year as there is more demand for non-COVID-19 care.

Total hospitalizations: The number of people hospitalized for any reason is also increasing and has reached 15,000 in LA County. That’s close to the peak of 16,500 from last winter’s surge, Ferrer said.

USI: COVID-19 patients also make up a growing share of patients in LA County’s intensive care units, nearly 25%. This figure was 10% around Christmas. During the Delta’s summer surge, that number peaked at 20%, and last winter it peaked at 70%.

Fans: There is also an increase in the percentage of patients on ventilators who have COVID-19. About 20% of ventilated patients now have COVID-19; this figure was 10% last month. The latest figure is the same as the summer surge and is one-third of last winter’s peak.

“This means that Omicron not only causes an increase in the overall count in hospitals, but also causes an increase in the proportion of patients in intensive and ventilated care,” Ferrer said. “And although thankfully not at the levels we saw in the last winter outbreak, these numbers are a stark reminder that for a growing number of people, Omicron is causing serious illness.”

Understanding Omicron

Omicron is the dominant coronavirus strain in the United States, accounting for about 98% of new cases nationwide, according to the CDC.

New data from Southern California provides further evidence that the Omicron variant causes less severe disease than Delta, the culprit of last summer’s surge.

A preliminary study based on medical records of nearly 70,000 patients from Kaiser Permanente in Southern California “noted a significantly reduced risk of serious clinical outcomes in patients infected with the Omicron variant compared to Delta,” Walensky said.

The study – which included more than 52,000 Omicron cases and nearly 17,000 Delta cases within the Kaiser system from November 30 to January 1 – found that, compared to patients infected with Delta, those who had Omicron were 53% less likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19, 74% less likely to be admitted to the intensive care unit, and 91% less likely to die from disease.

Among hospitalized patients, the median length of stay was 1.5 days for patients infected with Omicron and five days for those with Delta.

The dangers of Omicron

Even though an Omicron infection is less likely to result in hospitalization, California still estimates that about 4.5% of residents will require a hospital stay with this strain of the virus. And, officials warn, it’s unclear how survivors will cope with a long COVID, which can lead to illness that lasts for months or more, or to what extent Omicron’s surviving children will face multisystem inflammatory syndrome. , or MIS-C, a rare but serious complication which can be fatal.

“Anyone who tells you that, for certain, you can assure someone that they will not have in the long run [consequences] to have an infection; whoever tells you, for sure, knows that this variant will give you immunity that will last forever and so, therefore, you should go out and get infected – they don’t know,” said Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, president of the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at UC San Francisco. “Because the best virologists, the best epidemiologists, the best doctors do not know and do not agree on these different subjects. »

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