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LA Public Health Strongly Recommends Masks As Viral Infections Increase

A line graph showing COVID-19 cases and hospitalization in L.A. County increasing since Oct. 2022. While cases are ticking up, the most recent peak was in July, 2022.
COVID-19 cases and hospitalization in L.A. County have increased since Oct. 2022. While cases are ticking up, the most recent peak was in July, 2022.
(Courtesy L.A. County Dept. of Public Health)
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COVID-19 cases are again rising and new variants are emerging. L.A. County is now recording more than100 cases a week for every 100,000 residents, up from a low of 60 in October. Hitting that benchmark caused masks to be “strongly recommended” by local health officials. That's a step up from the previous "recommended" language.

How Bad Is It?

A trio of viruses (COVID-19, flu and RSV) has made for a difficult respiratory virus season already. L.A. County is still in the CDC’s low community level, but new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are increasing. At the same time, the convergence of high flu and RSV cases have sent record numbers of babies and young children to hospitals.

Dr. Mark Ghaly, State Secretary of Health and Human Services told reporters Thursday “in every category that we track…we’re seeing increases in RSV, flu and COVID. We have experienced levels of test positivity for our youngest Californians that rival peaks in other years.” Last week, state health officials reported the first death of a childunder 5 years old due to RSV and flu this season.

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The Impact On Hospitals

Health officials said emergency rooms and hospitals are starting to work at capacity, especially at pediatric intensive care units. So far, hospitals in L.A. County have been able to handle the increase in both pediatric and adult hospitalizations.

Triage Tents And Boosters

Ghaly said he expects to soon see white triage tents outside hospitals across California, in what has become an annual indicator of hospital stress. Low COVID-19 booster uptake is compounding the problem. In L.A. County, just 14% of eligible people have gotten the shot.

Break Out The Masks

Moving into winter, the typical advice still applies: wear an N95 mask in public, stay up to date on vaccines, hold gatherings outside whenever possible, and take a rapid COVID-19 test before parties. “It’s not too late to get vaccinated before Thanksgiving, you’ll have some protection if you do it now,” said L.A. County Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis.

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.