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LA County’s COVID-19 Cases Are Dropping

A line graph showing reported COVID-19 cases decreasing since mid July, 2022 in L.A. County.
Courtesy of the L.A. County Dept. of Public Health)
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New COVID-19 infections are on the way down in Los Angeles County, dropping by 28% since the peak in July, according to the County Department of Public Health.

“The seven-day average case count has fallen by over 1,900 cases, from the peak of 6,800 cases on July 18 to the 4,900 today. This is the largest drop in average case counts we've seen since the end of the winter surge,” County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer told a press conference Thursday.

The decrease suggests the latest wave driven by fast-spreading subvariants of omicron may have peaked. Combined, BA.4 and BA.5 make up 80% of infections in the county.

There’s still a lot of COVID-19 around to catch even though rates seem to be declining, experts warn. Public Health reported more than 4,900 new cases Thursday, and the county’s positivity rate remains at 14%. These cases are an undercount, since many people test at home and don’t report the results.

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Public health reported an average of 17 deaths per day in the last week due to the virus, a slight increase from the prior week.

Even with the drop, L.A. County’s reported cases remain elevated enough to keep the county in the CDC’s “high” community rating for a third week.

The CDC rates U.S. counties’ risk level each week as low, medium or high based on hospital beds being used by COVID-19 positive patients, hospital admissions, and the total number of new cases.

The CDC’s first recommendation for high-transmission counties is unambiguous: “Wear a well-fitting mask indoors in public, regardless of vaccination status.” That includes K-12 schools and “other indoor community settings.”

The number of patients in L.A.’s hospitals with COVID-19 has plateaued. On average there were 1,254 patients with the virus in the hospital last week.There were also fewer new admissions to intensive care units.

Health officials hope this week’s arrival of the new Novavax vaccine will appeal to the 1.5 million adult Angelenos who still haven't been vaccinated against the coronavirus.

The county received 12,000 Novavax doses this week.

The mRNA vaccines made by Moderna and Pfizer stimulate the immune system by injecting snippets of genetic code for a key protein from the virus into the body. Although they are very safe and highly effective, some people have been reluctant to get them because of misinformation about their safety.

In contrast, the Novavax vaccine injects copies of the spike protein that are grown in a lab and resemble a virus to the immune system, prompting an immune response. It’s the same technology used to make shingles and hepatitis B shots.

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Both approaches have proved successful against COVID-19.

During the 30-day period that ended July 21, unvaccinated residents were almost two times more likely to get infected than fully vaccinated residents, Ferrer said.

“This shows that even with the more transmissible subvariants of omicron that are spreading across the county, vaccines do provide some protection against infection,” she said.

Face masks are still strongly encouraged, especially indoors as transmission remains high, Ferrer said.

Masks are required in high-risk places such as on public transportation, in doctor’s offices and hospitals, in homeless shelters and prisons, and in long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes.

What questions do you have about the pandemic and health care?
Jackie Fortiér helps Southern Californians understand the pandemic by identifying what's working and what's not in our health response.