Ahead of the July 4 weekend, Los Angeles County today reported 6,529 daily Covid infections, which is very nearly the highest total the county has seen since early February. Only the 7,209 recorded on May 31 is higher.
L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said earlier this week that daily infection numbers may be leveling out, but today’s count plus a test positivity rate that has very nearly doubled in just over two weeks would seem to indicate otherwise.
On Tuesday, June 14 L.A.’s test positivity was 6.5%. Today, the rate is 12.9%. That’s a massive jump for a number that is not only a percentage of total tests but also a 7-day average.
Meanwhile, the number of Covid-positive patients in Los Angeles County hospitals increased by 32 people to 779, according to the latest state figures. Of those patients, 77 were being treated in intensive care, up from 68 the previous day.
Ferrer told the Board of Supervisors Tuesday that while hospitals over the past week averaged 720 Covid patients per day, a 16% increase from the previous week, the rate of new admissions has actually gone down.
According to Ferrer, the county is currently averaging 6.6 new daily Covid admissions per 100,000 residents, down from 7.3 per 100,000 a week ago. It was the first decline in that rate in the past few weeks.
The rate is being closely watched, 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 county stays in the “high” category for two consecutive weeks, officials will reimpose a mandatory indoor mask-wearing mandate.
Health officials had initially estimated that the county might reach the high category by the end of June, but with the pace of new admissions slowing, the estimate was pushed back last week to mid-July. On Tuesday, Ferrer said if the current pace holds, the county won’t reach the high category until the end of July.
There are two wild cards, however.
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 prior infections.
While the number of identified cases of each variant in Los Angeles is very small, so are the number of positive samples 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 across the U.S. and also more specifically in the three-state region comprised of California, Arizona and Nevada.
The second wild card is the upcoming holiday weekend.
In a statement Tuesday afternoon, Ferrer urged residents to exercise caution against virus spread over the Fourth of July, mainly by getting vaccinated.
“Residents can also reduce the chance of getting or spreading Covid-19 by wearing a mask and doing an at-home test before indoor gatherings and events,” she said. “If someone does test positive or feel sick, they should stay away from others to prevent infecting others. As we celebrate this weekend, let’s make an effort to take actions that protect our friends, family members, and co-workers who may be at elevated risk.”