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Soaring COVID-19 Cases Push LA County Back Into ‘High’ Tier

A chart depicts the rise and fall of COVID-19 cases, deaths, and hospital admissions using green, blue, and orange lines, respectively. Across the bottom axis are dates from April 1, 2022 through December 8, 2022. The lines show a steep increase over the summer weeks before falling into a valley in September and October before rising sharply again in November and December.
(L.A. County Department of Public Health)
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COVID-19 transmission has been high for weeks, and with cases soaring, Los Angeles County has now officially moved back into the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's "high" community level.

We’re now seeing an average of nearly 3,800 reported cases each day, which is a 40% increase from just last week — and an undercount. Right now, a dozen people die daily in L.A. from COVID-19.

Hospital crunch

COVID-19 is now sending 210 Angelenos to the hospital daily. That’s up 9% from a week ago, and on top of unseasonably high numbers of flu and RSV cases. More than half of L.A. County's hospitals report staffing shortages, as staff are out sick or caring for family members.

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What you can do to protect yourself

Get the bivalent booster. Children under 5 will be able to get it as soon as it's given the green light by the CDC, likely this week. Wear an N95 or KN95 mask in public, which will help prevent you from getting infected with any of the swirling viruses.

“People won’t need hospital care if they don’t get infected in the first place,” said L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer. “We all need to wear our masks now.”

What to do if you get sick

We’re entering the third pandemic winter, but it’s the first with widely available antivirals. Paxlovid requires a positive COVID-19 test and a prescription, and depending on your pharmacy, can be delivered the same day. Not everyone can take it, but it shortens the duration of your sickness if taken within the first few days of symptoms. If you have flu-like symptoms and test negative for the coronavirus, it may be the flu. Tamiflu is used to treat symptoms and is prescribed by a doctor.

What does the high community level mean?

Home testing changed COVID-19 data collection. People don’t need to get a PCR test that is sent to a lab, meaning the vast majority of cases go unreported. To compensate for that, last February the CDC announced a new system of monitoring levels of the coronavirus, tying public health recommendations such as masking to metrics showing the strain of COVID-19 on hospitals rather than the prevalence of infections.

When could the public mask mandate return to L.A.?

If the share of hospital beds used by patients with COVID-19 rises from 6.9% to 10% and it stays high for two weeks, that could trigger a new indoor mask mandate that could go into effect by early January. The last countywide indoor public mask mandate ended in March, after the last winter surge subsided.

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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.