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LA County Moved Back Up To 'High' COVID Transmission

A line graph showing unvaccinated Angelenos are more likely to contract COVID-19 than vaccinated residents.
Courtesy of the L.A. County Dept. of Public Health)
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Los Angeles County health officials are warning of the beginnings of a winter surge as new coronavirus cases totaled 1,715 on Thursday. Three weeks ago, before Thanksgiving, the county was reporting around 1,000 cases a day.

The troubling trend of rising cases is also reflected in the number of people hospitalized with the virus: 666, an increase of 98 in just one week.

“We have moved from substantial transmission back to high transmission,” County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Thursday at her weekly press conference. “We are looking at the possible beginnings of a winter surge …. we should consider this an early warning about the upcoming December holidays.”

The average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus in the county was 1.5% as of Thursday. The county's cumulative seven-day case rate, as estimated by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, rose last week to 113 cases per 100,000 residents. The rise means the county is back in the CDC’s “high” transmission category.

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About 10 deaths are reported each day from the virus in L.A. County.

“Although omicron is top of mind, delta is still dominant,” Ferrer said. “We anticipate delta will continue to dominate as a COVID strain within L.A. County for the next few weeks.”

A powerpoint slide bullet pointing steps L.A. County health officials will take to combat the omicron variant such as increased testing.
(Courtesy of the L.A. County Dept. of Public Health)

For more than a year, Black and Latino Angelenos have contracted the virus and died at disproportionately higher rates than Asian and white residents. That pattern is continuing, Ferrer said.

“The gaps we see between groups reflect the reality that during surges of transmission, the people who have to physically go to work are disproportionately exposed to COVID,” she said. “Here in L.A. County, as in many urban centers, many of these workers are Black and Latinx, and many of them are in essential jobs that are paying lower wages.”

Children in high-need communities need to be vaccinated at higher rates, she added, “and frankly, that’s not happening.”.

Ferrer was encouraged that more people have received booster and first doses of the vaccines since Thanksgiving, a shift after months of decreasing vaccinations.

“The booster offered six times the protection of the primary vaccine series alone,” Ferrer said.

Research has demonstrated that unvaccinated people are at a much higher risk of getting COVID-19. Just 1.4% of fully vaccinated people in the county have gotten a breakthrough case.

There are more than 230 county testing sites, where people can get tested for free regardless of health insurance or immigration status. Ferrer encouraged people to get tested often to keep from spreading the virus during the holidays.

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“I am urging residents to take advantage of the tools that we have, that we didn't have last year," she said, noting that the lack of a vaccine a year ago "contributed to the devastating number of deaths we saw last winter.”

Added Ferrer: “There's a lot we all need to do to slow down transmission that we're obviously not all doing.”

Five Omicron Cases Found In L.A. County

On Dec. 2, health officials announced the first case of the omicron variant had been detected in L.A. County. The local resident likely contracted the variant while traveling to South Africa via London. Two more omicron cases were detected — one involving a person who had recently traveled to west Africa and another involving a USC student who had traveled to the East Coast for Thanksgiving.

Long Beach, which has its own health department, announced its first omicron case Tuesday. That person was fully vaccinated and had recently traveled internationally, but not to southern Africa.

The fifth case, announced on Wednesday, is different. L.A. County health officials say the case is “a possible result of local transmission,” meaning the new coronavirus variant is now spreading throughout the county’s population. The person is fully vaccinated and boosted.

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