COVID-19 continues to spread throughout Los Angeles County — with the Los Angeles County Department of Health and Human Services reporting 6,245 new confirmed cases of the virus as of Thursday, May 26.
Last week, DPH reported that community transmission – which has been rising steadily in recent weeks – has reached the “intermediate” level as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
CDC guidelines dictate that when a region’s case rate rises above 200 per 100,000 people, the community transmission designation escalates from low to moderate. Although entering the mid-transition does not require new mandates, it can be an early indicator that a strain on the healthcare system may be on the horizon, according to the CDC website.
“The trend we saw last week has continued with a significant increase in cases,” DPH Director Barbara Ferrer said during her weekly COVID-19 letter. “As a reminder, this number is underestimated as it does not include positive test results from over-the-counter tests.”
The county’s daily case rate remains high, Ferrer said, rising to a new high of 41 cases per 100,000 people. Test positivity has also risen: it is now at 4.1% – about 2.5 times the rate reported a month ago.
Hospital admissions also increased, although not at the same rate as other indicators. As of May 26, about 429 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 across the county, up from 410 the previous day.
Deaths have remained stable, Ferrer said, with about seven deaths per day reported over the past week. Ferrer continued to urge the public to adhere to sensible mitigation measures – like masking in high-risk environments, frequent testing and vaccinations – as cases continue to rise nationwide, suggesting community transmission is becoming “high”. Transfer could trend naming in the coming months.
As of Thursday, the county township’s transition rate was 280 new cases per 100,000 people — up from 246 the week before. The county designation will be changed to high if either 10% of patients in hospitals are COVID-19 positive or the rate of new COVID-19 hospitalizations increases to 10% or more per 100,000 people, Ferrer said.
Currently, 2.3% of people hospitalized in LA County are COVID-19 positive, and there are about 4.5 new COVID-19-related hospitalizations per 100,000 people per week, DPH reported. The latter of those two indicators has doubled since last month, Ferrer said.
All eight of the county’s early warning signals are now considered of medium importance, Ferrer added, with two being of high importance.
One such metric is monitoring COVID-19 outbreaks in skilled care facilities. There have been 21 reported outbreaks of COVID-19 in retirement homes in the past seven days, Ferrer said.
“Unless we interrupt this increase in transmission, it will — as always — have an impact on the healthcare system,” Ferrer said, noting that even a moderate increase in COVID-positive patients puts a strain on hospitals as they require more intense resources .
Omicron subvariant BA.2. remains the dominant COVID-19 strain in the county, Ferrer said — although Omicron’s even more transmissible BA.2.12.1 subline accounted for about 36% of the county’s tested cases.
In the week ending May 20, this sublineage has become the dominant strain nationwide — accounting for 58% of the cases sequenced, Ferrer said.
Ferrer urged residents across the county to take precautions as they prepare for Memorial Day celebrations — and as end-of-year events continue to take place.
“We have an opportunity to slow transmission,” Ferrer said, noting the importance of frequent testing, vaccination, and masking when needed. “We have the tools – I think we have to use them better if we want to avoid going into that high level of transmission.
As it stands, Ferrer said, the county will not provide updates to standing health orders on masking mandates — unless community transmission reaches the high designation.