LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles County reported 3,254 new cases of COVID-19 and 197 additional deaths Saturday, as health officials urged residents to celebrate the Valentine’s Day and Presidents Day holidays without mingling with people from other households.
The latest numbers bring the county’s totals to 1,164,769 cases and 18,984 deaths since the pandemic began. The number of coronavirus patients in county hospitals stood at 3,426, with 30% in intensive care. The county’s hospitalization rate has declined 37% since February 1.
Saturday’s daily test positivity rate was 5.3%, down 42% since February 1st.
Despite the encouraging trends, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health was reminded the public that being around people who don’t live in the same household creates a greater risk for COVID-19 because people can be infected with the virus and not yet know it.
“On the eve of Valentine’s Day, we encourage everyone to be loving to others and always wear a mask when out of your house, keep a distance of at least six feet from people that don’t live with you, and stay home and away from others if you are sick or are currently under isolation or quarantine,” Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said. “These are simple actions that will slow the spread of COVID-19, save lives, and help end this pandemic. In these times of vaccine scarcity, these are the most effective tools that we each have to protect each other as we continue to get more vaccine for everyone who wants it in the county.”
The health department also reminded residents that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control is now recommending either “double masking” by wearing two masks (a disposable mask underneath and a cloth mask on top) or wearing a cloth mask combined with a fitter or brace.
Meanwhile, with vaccine supplies still limited, Los Angeles County will again reserve the majority of its available vaccinations next week to provide second doses for those ready to receive them, with county-operated large-scale sites exclusively administering second doses, health officials announced.
“Next week the majority of appointments at our vaccinations sites will continue to be for second doses,” said Dr. Paul Simon, chief science officer for the county, said Friday. “We will only be providing second doses at our Mega-POD (point of dispending) sites.”
The county operated Mega-PODs are at the Pomona Fairplex, Magic Mountain, the Forum, the county Office of Education in Downey and Cal State Northridge.
He said first doses will be available at other locations, primarily at health centers, pharmacies “and other providers that serve the areas hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The county has been receiving roughly 200,000 doses each week, although the actual amount has varied wildly week-to-week, making advance planning for reservations difficult. Supplies were so limited this week, that the city of Los Angeles was forced to close the Dodger Stadium vaccination site and four other locations through the weekend because it exhausted its supply by Thursday afternoon.
“We share their frustration,” Simon said. “We’re all frustrated. We know that we could do much more if we had more doses. For example, we’re now receiving about 200,000 doses each week, and as we’ve surveyed all of our providers, we’re confident that we could administer up to 600,000 doses a week. So we have much, much greater capacity if we can get the available vaccine.”
Simon and county Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis both said increasing supplies will be critical as more people become eligible for the shots — noting that the state plans to expand eligibility next month to all people aged 16 or over who have underlying medical conditions or disabilities that make them highly susceptible to death or severe illness from COVID-19.
Davis recognized the generally improving downward trends in daily cases, but stressed that while the numbers are getting better, they’re still high, and “the risk of running into someone with COVID-19 who may not know it is still very high.”
On Friday, the county also reported another 15 cases of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C, raising the overall total to 90, including one death. Health officials noted there has been a 35% increase in the number of MIS-C infections locally over the past two weeks. The syndrome generally develops in children after they had COVID-19, although it has occasionally affected patients with no known prior infection.
Davis also expressed dismay over plans by Sun Valley’s Grace Community Church — which has repeatedly defied county and court orders by holding massive indoor services — to host an indoor religious conference in early March that typically attracts more than 3,000 people. He said the county is “exploring its options” for challenging the event. Such conferences are barred under health restrictions, but it’s unclear if the conflict would be exempted as a religious gathering.
On Friday night, however, the church announced it had opted to postpone the conference in light of its “ongoing litigation and recent threats from” the county and state over the planned event.
In terms of vaccines, Simon said that most recent figures show 1,345,949 doses have been administered in the county, with 1,047,074 of them first doses. A total of 13.5 % of the county’s population aged 16 and over have received at least one dose, and 3.8% of that population are fully vaccinated.