A look back at three years of COVID-19 in Los Angeles

It was easy to miss last week, but March 15 marked exactly three years to the day since Mayor Eric Garcetti ordered restaurants in the city of Los Angeles to stop in-person service, and bars, theaters and other businesses close in the face of the rising threat of the coronavirus. It would mark the beginning of an unpredictable period in which cases and deaths would rise and fall.

Here’s Crosstown’s recap of the curves and tolls COVID-19 had hit Los Angeles County.


Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Los Angeles County Department of Health and Human Services has reported more than 3.7 million cases. This includes only those recorded by the district. Many infections diagnosed through home testing, particularly in the last year, have never been publicly reported.

Even if rising counts had scared people in the first few months, nothing could have prepared the region for the first winter: In January 2021, before vaccines were widely available, there were more than 15,000 cases a day on average.

The low occurred in June 2021 when the seven-day moving average briefly fell below 200.

There were other peaks and valleys, often associated with it whenever a new variant emerged. The widest spread performed at Omicron, and as of January 2022, the county was averaging more than 40,000 daily cases. But despite the higher numbers, widespread use of vaccines meant fewer people were suffering from severe symptoms or dying than in the previous year.

Bar chart of monthly COVID-19 cases in Los Angeles County

In the third year there was a summer peak, but then the cases went back down. An increase similar to that of the first two winters never materialised.

On March 14 — the last day in the three-year span — the seven-day average of cases was 759, the lowest number since April 2022.

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The total toll on life is so immense that the number makes little sense: To date, nearly 36,000 people in Los Angeles County have died from COVID-19.

More than one in three deaths occurred during that first winter, which again before most people could be vaccinated. In January 2021 alone, 6,473 Angelenos died from COVID-19.

Another spike took place the following winteralthough it did not approach the initial peak.

Since the pandemic began, the lowest seven-day average for COVID-19 deaths has been four. That came July 1-6, 2021.

Line chart of monthly COVID-19 deaths in Los Angeles County

As of March 14, the seven-day average of deaths in Los Angeles County was 10.


The Department of Health began reporting hospitalizations related to COVID-19 in May 2020. As with cases and deaths, there were low periods and dizzying spikes. The highlight was the more than 8,000 hospitalizations reported in a single day in January 2021.

Once again, vaccines worked. They became widely available in the summer of 2021, and while some people suffered dire consequences, many of those who contracted COVID-19 never required high-level medical treatment.

Yet nearly 5,000 hospital admissions were reported in a single day in January 2022.

Line chart of COVID-19 hospitalizations through January three in Los Angeles County

That winter, hospital admissions fell in January. They fell 43.3% over the month.

As of March 14, 474 people with COVID-19 were in area hospitals, according to the county Department of Public Health. The last time hospitalizations were this low was early November.

positivity rate

In the early days of COVID-19, getting a test was almost impossible. Eventually, they became more widely available, although appointments were required at circular sites or dedicated testing centers. Now, of course, almost everyone has a stack of home tests.

The Ministry of Health started publishing the daily test positivity rate in January 2021 – on January 6 of the year it was 21.8%. It gradually fell to 0.3% at the end of May. The Omicron Strike in January 2022 brought the level back to 22.4%.

Once again, this January’s numbers were below those of the past and never eclipsed the January 3rd’s 16.1%.

The rate has stabilized around 5% over the past few weeks. On March 14, it was 4.8%.

take pictures

The first COVID-19 vaccines became available in December 2020, although they were limited to frontline healthcare professionals. For months, the supply was scarce, reserved for the elderly or people with health problems. In early 2021, people would turn up at vaccination sites at the end of the day, hoping to access “leftover” cans.

Then ramped up production, and in May 2021, the county began rolling out immunizations for those ages 12 to 15. In October, children aged 5 to 11 became eligible. The following June vaccines were available for people over 6 months old.

According to the County Department of Public Health vaccine dashboard, 81% of county residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine. About 74% are fully vaccinated and 43% have received at least one additional vaccination.

In all, more than 21.5 million doses have been administered in Los Angeles County. The peak was reached in March 2021, when more than 1.7 million people were stabbed in the arm. In February 2023 only 4,521 vaccinations were administered.

The bivalent booster has been available in the district since last September. This protects against the original COVID-19 strains as well as Omicron variants. The peak for this booster was in October when more than 500,000 Angelenos took the shot.

Since then, COVID-19 vaccinations of all kinds have declined.

How we did it: We analyzed coronavirus data related to new cases, deaths, hospitalizations and immunizations provided by the Los Angeles County Department of Health and Human Services.

Interested in our data? Visit the Crosstown interactive coronavirus map or E-Mail [email protected].

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