LA County’s COVID risk level rises from low to medium

Los Angeles County entered a higher level of coronavirus risk on Thursday, with health officials reporting more than 4,700 new daily cases. A continued rise in cases could trigger the return of restrictions such as a public indoor mask mandate.

The alert level was raised to the CDC’s “medium” level, which has a threshold of 200 new cases per 100,000 people, although hospitalizations remain low. LA County recorded 202 new cases per 100,000 residents last week.

The latest surge, fueled by the BA.2 subvariants, does not rival omicron’s surge in January and February, but recorded case levels have nearly tripled in the past month. Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said six of the county’s eight early warning signs showed “high concern.”

“This could signal that the increases we are seeing in our COVID cases could soon put a strain on our healthcare resources,” Ferrer said Thursday during his weekly press conference.

The county has averaged 3,300 cases per day over the past week, and the county’s transmission rate remains high. The number of people in hospital with COVID-19 is increasing, with around 330 patients and seven deaths per day. The county’s test positivity rate rose to 3.5%

LA County had been at “low” level since early March, after cases and hospitalizations from the omicron surge subsided. It was also when county health officials scrapped the indoor public mask mandate, which had been in place since last July, when cases of the delta variant began to rise.

New infections in LA County began to rise in mid-April, and outbreaks of three or more cases in K-12 schools and job sites followed.

Courtesy of LA County Public Health Department)

Ferrer said there are many more cases than the alert system counts, in part because it doesn’t account for positive home tests, which most people don’t report to the Department of Health. health.

“Once we are designated at a high community level, we will go back to requiring everyone to put on these masks,” Ferrer warned.

The number of people in hospital with COVID-19 is expected to increase significantly before LA County enters the “high” community level, Ferrer said.

“Our current rate of 3.4 new admissions per 100,000 population remains well below the high community level threshold, which is 10 or more new admissions per 100,000 population. However, this metric has steadily increased and is currently about twice as high as it was a month ago,” she said.

LA County transport mask mandate to be extended

Citing the increase in reported cases, Ferrer said an extension of the county’s transport mask mandate will likely be announced on Friday. It is due to expire this weekend.

“It would be really, at this point, reckless not to extend those protections,” she said, though she declined to say how long the mandate will remain in place.

The county’s health order has been in place since April 22, after a federal judge in Florida removed the mask mandate on public transportation and airplanes nationwide. (The US Department of Justice appealed the decision.)

In response, LA County health officials issued their own health order stating that anyone age 2 and older must wear face masks in “transportation hallways,” regardless of their vaccination status. The order is hampered by jurisdiction – air travelers are required to wear a mask inside local airports, but according to the airline, not once on board the plane.

Masks should also always be worn in high-risk places such as emergency shelters, doctors’ offices and hospitals, homeless shelters and prisons, and long-term care facilities such as retirement homes.

A line graph showing that cases are highest in affluent areas of LA County.

Courtesy of LA County Public Health Department)

Affluent neighborhoods See more cases – for now

Ferrer said case rates remain highest in affluent areas of the county — a pattern similar to what we saw early in the pandemic. Ferrer said large increases in low-resource communities are likely to follow, as in the past.

“We remain focused on reducing transmission across the county by reinforcing safety protocols at construction sites where many of our central and low-wage workers continue to work every day,” she said, “ and ensuring that all communities, especially those with the fewest resources, have excellent access to reliable information, vaccines, tests and now treatments.”

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