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More Outbreaks At Workplaces And Schools As LA’s COVID-19 Cases Increase

A line graph showing worksite outbreaks in L.A. County increasing to the medium concern threshold in early May, 2022.
Courtesy of the Los Angeles County Dept. Of Public Health)
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Coronavirus outbreaks are rising in Los Angeles County workplaces and schools. The clusters of three or more potentially linked cases is being blamed on the highly transmissible and dominant BA.2 variant, according to County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer.

While noting that “there is definitely an increase in cases … I would not call what we're seeing right now a surge,” Ferrer told a Wednesday news conference.

Ferrer characterized the trend as a “gradual increase,” which she said is more tolerable because hospitalizations and deaths have not risen, despite a 200% increase in cases in the past month.

“I think whenever you see this big an increase in cases … everyone should take notice,” Ferrer said. “It means when you go into a room with 100 people, it's very likely that in that room, there'll be at least one or two people that are infected.”

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The number of cases in L.A. County has increased about 25% since last week. The average number of daily new cases reported over the past seven days increased to nearly 2,200 new cases, and the county’s transmission rate remains high.

In total, 2,484 new cases and five deaths were reported Thursday. There are 248 people with COVID-19 currently hospitalized, and the county’s positivity rate ticked up to 2.2%.

About 96% of sequenced tests are BA.2.

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Courtesy of the L.A. County Dept. of Public Health )

To counter rising cases in late April, health officials stipulated that everyone aged 2 and older must wear face masks in “transportation corridors,” regardless of vaccination status.

The new mask mandate will be reassessed when the county’s community coronavirus transmission drops to moderate or when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention determines requiring indoor masking in transportation is no longer needed.

Outbreaks Rising In Information Sector

Between April 25 and May 2, 108 worksite clusters were reported and 45% were in the manufacturing and retail sectors.

The information industry — which includes motion picture and sound recording industries, data processing and broadcasting — had 10 new outbreaks in April, the highest of any sector.

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In April the manufacturing sector reported five new outbreaks, followed by the real estate sector, accommodation and food service sector and food and beverage store sectors, which each reported three outbreaks.

Ferrer reminded employers they are required to report outbreaks quickly to the health department.

California requires employers offer free testing during business hours to any employee exposed to COVID-19 at work, and medical grade masks to employees working in close contact with other people at sites where masking is optional. Masks are required in health care settings, emergency shelters, jails and prisons, homeless shelters and long-term care facilities such as nursing homes.

A line graph showing school outbreaks in L.A. County increasing since April 19, 2022.
Courtesy of the L.A. County Dept. of Public Health )

School Outbreaks Are Up

Schools in L.A. County reported 13 new classroom outbreaks in the last seven days, 10 of which were in elementary schools and three in middle schools. Ferrer said test positivity rates in school children remain very low since the end of the winter surge, but they are creeping up.

“The current test positivity rate [in schools] is 0.4%. That’s much lower than the community transmission rate,” Ferrer said.

In March, many area school districts, including Los Angeles Unified, lifted the requirement that students wear a mask indoors. The shift was in keeping with state and county guidance on face coverings, which changed to strongly recommending, but not requiring, masking indoors in K-12 schools.

“There are now nearly as many cases among students and staff as there were in mid-February,” Ferrer said.

Just 32% of children between the ages of 5 and 11 are fully vaccinated in L.A. County. Older children are more likely to have received the shots, with 78% of 12- to 17-year-olds in L.A. fully vaccinated, according to L.A. County Public Health data.

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Jackie Fortiér helps Southern Californians understand the pandemic by identifying what's working and what's not in our health response.