Los Angeles County’s COVID-19 numbers continued to tumble Tuesday, a positive sign as the planned lifting of virus-related restrictions across the state grows closer and another holiday weekend looms.
According to weekly figures released by the state, the county’s average daily rate of new COVID-19 infections fell to 0.9 per 100,000 residents, down from 1.2 per 100,000 residents last week. The continued decline leaves the county firmly anchored in the least-restrictive yellow tier of the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy, which guides restrictions on business activity and gatherings during the pandemic.
The county’s current testing-positivity rate also fell again, according to the state figures, dropping from 0.6% last week to 0.5% this week.
“The county continues to see progress in our metrics as our vaccination rate goes up,” county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement. “Vaccinating as many residents as we can puts us in the strongest position possible when the risk of transmission goes up with full re- openings in a few weeks. The most powerful tool to keep cases and hospitalizations down and end this pandemic as we know it are the vaccines.”
Ferrer announced Monday that 50% of the county’s population aged 16 and over are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
“It is truly thrilling to see us reach this landmark, and I want to thank everyone who’s done their part to get us to this point,” she said.
But vaccination demand has continued to dwindle, leaving significant gaps among ethnic groups, with vaccine rates among Black and Latino communities lagging behind those of white and Asian residents.
Vaccination rates are also lagging among younger residents, although they have been eligible shots for less time than their 65-and-older counterparts.
The county reported Monday that for the first time, residents aged 30 to 49 had the highest number of people hospitalized of any age group during the six-week period from April 1 to May 17. Traditionally, older residents have dominated hospitalization numbers.
But vaccination rates among older residents are much higher, with the 65-plus age group vaccinated at a rate of 72%. That compares to 46% for residents 16-64.
While improvements continue to be made in each group, Ferrer noted that “lower vaccination rates in younger age groups means not only are people in those age groups more likely to transmit COVID, but they’re also more likely to suffer its severe consequences.”
“… Older adults, particularly those over 65, are now protected by their high vaccination rates,” she said. “Children and young adults may be protected by virtue both of their youth and by the masking requirements in place at their schools. But people in the middle group — many of them are workers and people responsible for the care of others — are not as well- protected by either of these factors. And if they’re not vaccinated, they are highly likely to end up with a COVID infection, and unfortunately, as we see, disproportionately likely to end up in the hospitals.”
County officials are urging as many people as possible to get vaccinated ahead of June 15, when the state and county will lift the vast majority of COVID restrictions, including all capacity limits and physical distancing requirements.
Ferrer on Monday also urged un-vaccinated residents to exercise caution over the upcoming Memorial Day weekend. Holiday weekends have been problematic during the pandemic, with residents often shunning health protocols to gather with friends and families.
Ferrer again noted that getting fully vaccinated provides the benefit of being able to gather in groups and more freely engage in social activities.
The county on Tuesday reported another 10 COVID-19 deaths, while Long Beach health officials announced two more, increasing the countywide death toll to 24,186.
Another 191 new cases were also announced by the county, with Long Beach adding 33 and Pasadena one, lifting the cumulative total from throughout the pandemic to 1,239,127.
According to state figures, there were 320 people hospitalized in the county due to COVID-19 as of Tuesday, down from 325 on Monday. There were 68 people in intensive care, down from 73 on Sunday.
In hopes of getting more people to vaccination sites, the county plans to offer more incentives, with prizes such as gift cards and sports tickets likely to be offered in coming weeks. Ferrer said the giveaways will be announced through the county’s social media platforms.
Over the weekend, people over age 18 who got vaccinated at county- or city-run sites were given a chance to win Laker season tickets. Ferrer said sports teams and local event venues are chipping in to provide additional incentives in hopes of boosting vaccination rates ahead of the planned June 15 lifting of the bulk of COVID restrictions across California.