COVID-19-linked hospitalizations climbed to more than 1,000 in Los Angeles County on Friday, July 8, as the county continued on a pace to reach the “high” virus activity level by next week, which could equate to another universal indoor mask-wearing mandate by the end of the month.
According to state figures, there were 1,021 COVID-positive patients in county hospitals as of Thursday, up from 989 a day earlier.
The number of patients being treated in intensive care was 99, down from 103 on Thursday.
Health officials have said that many of those patients entered the hospital for other reasons before testing positive for COVID, but they still place an added burden on hospital staff as they require special infection-control measures. Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said roughly 40% of patients with the virus were admitted for COVID illness, while 60% were admitted for other reasons.
Ferrer clarified on Thursday that the hospital admission rate being relied upon by the county in determining the “high” community level differs from the one being reported weekly by the CDC. She said the CDC figure relating to hospital admission rates actually combines Los Angeles and Orange counties, and Orange County has a substantially higher admission rate than Los Angeles.
The CDC website on Thursday showed both Los Angeles and Orange counties with a COVID hospital admission rate of 9.7 per 100,000 residents, putting both on the precipice of entering the “high” virus activity level. Taken separately, however, Los Angeles’ rate is only 8.4 per 100,000, while Orange County’s is 13.3 per 100,000.
L.A. County will be relying on its separate local rate when determining when the two-week clock will being ticking on a universal indoor mask-wearing mandate.
The county is currently in the “medium” virus activity level, as defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It will reach the “high” category if the seven-day average of new COVID-related hospital admissions reaches 10 per 100,000 residents.
As of Thursday, the county’s admission rate was 8.4 per 100,000 residents. But given the rate of increase over the past two weeks, the county is on pace to reach 10 per 100,000 residents by next Thursday, Ferrer said in an online briefing. She stressed that the estimate is only a projection which could change dramatically based on admission numbers in the coming days.
If the county remains at that high level for two consecutive weeks, it will re-impose a mandatory indoor mask-wearing mandate. Under the current schedule, that would happen on July 29.
“We don’t have the luxury of doing nothing,” Ferrer said, pointing to the high level of virus spread in the county — increasingly fueled by the BA.4 and BA.5 variants of the virus — and rising hospitalization numbers.
“… What makes the most sense is to remain committed to protecting one another,” she said.
The county reported 5,316 additional COVID cases on Thursday, raising the cumulative total from throughout the pandemic to 3,153,690. Another 13 new deaths were also reported, lifting the overall virus-related death toll to 32,397. The average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus rose to 16.9%.
Ferrer noted that the BA.4 and BA.5 variants of the COVID are now responsible for nearly 40% of all specially sequenced cases — roughly two-and-a-half times higher than two weeks ago. Nationally, the CDC estimates those two variants are responsible for about 70% of sequenced cases.
The number of new cases announced by the county each day is believed to be an undercount due to the prevalence of take-home COVID tests, the results of which are not always reported to the county.
Ferrer last week noted an uptick in infections related to workplaces, and urged employers to implement infection-control measures in indoor spaces, such as masking and maintaining physical distancing in communal areas. She said one sector in particular — the TV and film industry — has already re-imposed an indoor mask mandate now that the county’s hospitalization rate has reached more than 8 per 100,000 residents.
She said that given the continued high level of virus transmission in the county — particularly with more rapid spread of the highly transmissible BA.4 and BA.5 variants — people should already be masking up indoors.
The city of Malibu announced Tuesday that masks are again being required inside Malibu City Hall due to surging cases among city staff. The building remains open, but residents are being urged to take advantage of virtual appointments and services.
City News Service contributed to this report
Source: Orange County Register