LA County reports 3,248 new coronavirus cases – highest since February – as hospitalizations mount – Daily News

on Jul30
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More than a year and a half after the pandemic began, Los Angeles County once again teetered precariously close to 1,000 coronavirus-related hospitalizations on Thursday, July 29 — showing just how far the region remains from a full-fledged recovery.

The county also reported its highest number of daily new COVID-19 cases since February, posting 3,248 new cases and 17 new deaths. All told,  the virus has claimed 24,675 lives and infected 1,276,137 people.

Even with troubling tolls of late, officials on Thursday pointed to early signs that an updated mask mandate and a major vaccination effort might be showing some hopeful signs of turning the tide of a troubling,  weeks-long spike.

“The risk of increased spread of increase spread within our county remains high,” said L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer, pointing to data that shows 15.7 new cases per 100,000 in the county, an increase from 12.9 new cases per 100,000 last week. Those are numbers, along with a 5.17% positivity rate, that put the county right smack into “high transmission” threshold, using the state’s ranking criteria.

However, last week’s case volume was an 80% increase over the prior week. But this week’s volume was only a 17% increase over last week. And while it was still too early to tell if the re-started indoor mask mandated kicked into gear nearly two weeks was having an effect, Ferrer was hopeful it could be signs the stats leveling out.

“This suggests to us that perhaps the rate of increase may be stabilizing,” Ferrer said.

Still, Ferrer pointed to “concerning” signs that an increase in deaths among Black people amid the virus’s recent spikes were beginning to show up in the data, though it was still too early for a full picture.

On July 19, the death rate among Black residents was 0.7 per 100,000. It rose to 1.2 per 100,000 by July 17.

Other racial groups’ death rates did not increase by July 17, but all experienced rises in case and hospitalization rates, with Black resident and White residents seeing among the largest increases in hospitalizations.

It’s those hospitalizations — a lagging indicator that in past surges really begin to multiply in proportion to cases two weeks after case spikes — which officials are watching closely.

So far, in the latest spike, that pattern has not fully developed — a good thing, officials said.

“We’re not currently seeing that pattern replicate itself during our current surge of cases,” Ferrer said. “Although cases have increased by 740% over the last month, hospitaliations have increased by 180%. Fewer of our cases are becoming severly ill.”

Ferrer noted that 0.21% of positive cases are hospitalized, a far cry from the nearly 6% of positive cases that were ultimately hospitalized during the mammoth winter surge.

Ferrer also noted this week that some patients hospitalized with COVID-19 initially came to the hospital for an ailment unrelated to COVID. It was only in the initial admission screening was it discovered they had been infected.

But by Thursday, the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations stood at 991. And it seems certain to top 1,000 by week’s end given the current pattern.

From Wednesday to Thursday, 73 more people were sick enough to be assigned a hospital bed in an L.A. County hospital; 14 more people were admitted to an intensive care unit, bring that number to 78.

In effect, the hospitalization numbers have:

–Doubled in just two weeks, up from 507 on July 16;

–Quadrupled in less than five weeks; the number was 255 on June 28; and,

–Just about quintupled since its low point of 212 on June 12, three days before the state reopened, according to a Southern California News Group analysis.

The last time the tally was above 1,000 was May 10.

Driving the increase has been a relentless mutant offshoot of the virus called the Delta variant, now the dominant strain of the virus in the United States and about 50% more contagious than the Alpha version.

It has spread primarily among the unvaccinated. Close to 4 million county residents have yet to get their shots, despite nearly 5.2 million people 16 and over having been vaccinated in the county.

But the push for vaccinations and a reinstituted mask mandate, now two weeks old, have sparked pushback from critics, who say they are arbitrary infringements on personal freedom by the government. Why, some ask, should one have to wear a mask if the vaccines work?

Public health officials and other leaders are increasingly worried about the more contagious nature of the Delta strain, the potential for more breakthrough infections and the increase in public mingling since sweeping health orders were eased on June 15. The variant itself replicates faster between people, has a higher viral load and appears to be more aggressive in attacking respiratory tract cells, experts say.

“Slowing the spread is important because it decreases the chance of more variants,” Ferrer said.

In June, fully vaccinated people represented 20% of all the cases diagnosed among L.A. County residents. Unvaccinated cases accounted for 80% of all cases, according to Public Health.

From July 1 through July 16, there were 13,598 cases diagnosed in L.A County — 74% of all the cases were among the unvaccinated and the fully vaccinated represented 26%. In June, 92% of hospitalizations were of unvaccinated people, and 8% were of vaccinated people, Ferrer said.

By July 25, 52% of L.A. County’s 10.3 million people, have been vaccinated, Ferrer said, adding that the for the second week in a row, the public health department saw an increase in people getting the first dose of vaccine.

“Our sense of urgency to increase vaccination among our residents remains high and we are grateful for these signs of  increased vaccination uptake,” Ferrer said. But she she still said younger people need to get vaccinated at a higher rate.

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