More than 3,000 new COVID-19 infections were reported in Los Angeles County Friday, the first time since Feb. 13 the number has topped that level.
The 3,058 new cases reported Friday lifted the cumulative total from throughout the pandemic to 1,279,171. More than 10,000 new cases have been reported in the last four days, with the daily number topping 2,500 for three consecutive days.
Health officials have repeatedly blamed the current surge in cases on the highly infectious “Delta” variant of the virus. The variant was first discovered in India and is blamed for rampant infections in that country, along with outbreaks in the United Kingdom. It is now spreading across the United States, contributing to rising case numbers and hospitalizations.
According to state figures, there were 688 people hospitalized in Los Angeles County due to COVID as of Friday, up from 655 on Thursday and the highest number since late March. There were 146 people in intensive care, down slightly from 148 on Thursday. The average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus was 5.2% on Friday, roughly the same as Thursday. The rate one month ago was 0.7%. Another seven COVID deaths were reported by the county Friday, lifting the overall death toll to 24,614.
The county Department of Public Health noted that unvaccinated people are becoming infected at five times the rate of transmission from just one month ago.
Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer released figures Thursday showing that fully vaccinated people are also not immune from contracting the virus — representing 20% of all infections during June. But she stressed that thanks to the vaccines, the vast majority of those people are not becoming severely ill or hospitalized. And she said without the vaccines, the situation would be much worse.
“If we didn’t have 5.3 million people fully vaccinated in L.A. County, we would probably be seeing almost double the number of cases today,” Ferrer said in a statement Friday. “As cases continue to rise, many of us are trying to figure out what steps to take to minimize exposure to the virus. For those eligible and not yet vaccinated, now would be an important time to get your vaccine because our three vaccines all offer a lot of protection to the vaccinated person and also slow down the spread.”
County figures released Thursday showed that among roughly 4.85 million fully vaccinated residents from Jan. 19 through Tuesday, only 6,520 tested positive for the virus, for a rate of 0.13%. That’s up from a rate of 0.09% last week.
Of the fully vaccinated people in that period who tested positive, only 287 were hospitalized, for a rate of 0.0059% of the vaccinated population, up from 0.0045% last week. There were 30 vaccinated people who died, a rate of 0.0006%.
The most recent figures provided by the county Thursday show that 5.3 million of the county’s roughly 10.3 million residents are fully vaccinated, a rate of roughly 52%. About 1.3 million county residents are ineligible for shots because they are under age 12.
Ferrer stressed the protection offered by the vaccines, despite the increasing numbers of vaccinated people becoming infected, comparing their effectiveness to a car’s seat belt.
“While seat belts don’t prevent every bad thing that can happen during a car accident, they do provide excellent protection, so much so that we all use them routinely,” she said. “It wouldn’t really make sense to not use a seat belt just because it doesn’t prevent all injuries from car accidents. Rejecting a COVID vaccine because they don’t offer 100% protection really ignores the powerful benefits we’ve experienced from those people who have gotten vaccinated.”
Young Black and Latino residents continue to have the lowest rates of vaccination in the county.
Black residents also had the highest rate of new infections over the last month, at 181 per 100,000 residents. Latino/a residents have traditionally had one of the highest infections rates throughout the pandemic, but over the past month, white residents accrued a higher rate, at 83 per 100,000 residents. Latinos had an infection rate of 62 per 100,000 residents.
Black residents also had the highest rate of hospitalizations over the month, followed by Latinos and whites.
In hopes of encouraging more people to get vaccinated, the county is continuing to offer incentives. Through next Thursday, anyone who gets vaccinated at sites operated by the county, the city of Los Angeles or St. John’s Well Child and Family Center will be entered for a chance to win one of seven three-concert ticket packages at AEG venues, for a variety of acts.