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COVID Cases Rise Again In LA County Where Most People Are Skipping Boosters

A bar graph showing about 70% of COVID cases in L.A. County are caused by BA.5, down from 88% in early August. That percentage has been slowly decreasing as different Omicron subvariants spread.
About 70% of COVID cases in L.A. County are caused by BA.5, down from 88% in early August.
Courtesy L.A. County Dept. of Public Health)
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Topline:

COVID-19 cases have been steadily increasing since the beginning of November. Los Angeles County health officials report a 24% jump since just last week, from 1,000 to 1,300 reported new cases on average per day.

What's going on: Lab results show that while Omicron subvariant BA.5 is still responsible for two thirds of the cases, some of its offspring are adept at evading immunity and are spreading quickly.

Why it matters: New subvariants of BA.5 such as BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 mean more uncertainty. Health officials don’t yet know if they cause more severe illness than other Omicron strains, but we do know they are here to stay. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicts these subvariants will continue their rapid rise across the U.S., and could cause another winter wave.

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Why now: As we head into a third pandemic holiday season, people are tired of taking precautions, which is a recipe for more infections. The new bivalent booster protects against BA.5 will likely give great protection against its BQ descendants, said L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer. But just 12% of eligible Angelenos have gotten the free shot.

A bar graph showing about 70% of COVID cases in L.A. County are caused by BA.5, down from 88% in early August. That percentage has been slowly decreasing as different Omicron subvariants spread.
Courtesy of the L.A. County Dept. of Public Health)

What's next: L.A. County is still in the CDC’s low community level, meaning our hospitals are not under strain and there are enough staffed beds. But with so few people seeking out the bivalent booster, health officials are worried another winter surge could strain the health system, especially if influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) cases continue to rise.