Los Angeles County is beginning to see decreases in weekly COVID-19 case numbers, but given the highly infectious nature of the Delta variant of the virus, the county’s public health director said she’s hesitant to proclaim the worst of the latest coronavirus surge over.
“It’s important to note we are seeing less transmission across the board in general, but because the Delta variant is so capable of infecting lots of people, we still have very high numbers of people getting infected,” Barbara Ferrer said Thursday during an online media briefing. “And while in L.A. County, you look at our numbers and say we have tons and tons of people vaccinated … but we also have tons and tons of people that are unvaccinated — a very good reservoir for highly infectious variants.”
According to Ferrer, the county’s cumulative seven-day rate of new cases is now 159 per 100,000 residents, a 16% drop from last week and down 22% from the peak of 204 per 100,000 residents in mid-August. While unvaccinated residents remain four to five times more likely to get infected with COVID-19 than their vaccinated counterparts, Ferrer noted that case numbers appear to have peaked and begun declining across most ethnic groups, even among the unvaccinated.
“The decline may be related to the implementation of additional layers of protection, including universal masking indoors, and also to increases in overall vaccination coverage, which reduces the number of people who are unvaccinated and also reduces the likelihood of people transmitting infections to others,” Ferrer said.
She said health officials “with caution” are noting the decline in case rates, but it’s too early to determine if the current surge in Delta infections is waning, even noting that the county anticipates case numbers to rise thanks to increases in surveillance testing.
“I’ve noted that we’re not making any predictions in this go-around, because there are some things that are still creating some additional risk for us,” Ferrer said. “The first is that we’re returning about 1.5 million children and about 200,000 educators who support them back to our schools, and those folks will be in much closer contact than many of them have been for the duration of the pandemic.
“… Our team here is prepared to see another increase in cases over the next few weeks as we have, again, larger numbers of people intermingled,” Ferrer said.
Los Angeles County also continues to report relatively high daily numbers of deaths, with 43 new fatalities reported Thursday, bringing the county’s overall death toll from the pandemic to 25,364. Hospitalizations in the county remain at a relatively high level, although they have been dropping in recent weeks, falling to 1,641 total COVID patients as of Thursday, according to state figures. That’s down from 1,673 on Wednesday. There were 445 COVID patients in intensive care, down from 446 a day earlier.
The county reported 2,741 new cases on Thursday, raising the pandemic total to 1,412,240. The county’s rate of people testing positive for the virus rose slightly to 2.97%, up from 2.75% a week ago. The average daily rate of people becoming infected was 22.3 per 100,000 residents as of Thursday, down roughly 4% from a week ago.
Among eligible county residents aged 12 and over, 75% have received at least one dose of vaccine, while 65% are fully vaccinated.
Again touting the effectiveness of the vaccines, Ferrer said that of nearly 5.3 million residents who were fully vaccinated as of Tuesday, 37,614 have tested positive for the virus, for a rate of 0.71%, while 1,049 have been hospitalized, a rate of 0.02%. Of those fully vaccinated, 118 have died, for a rate of 0.0022%.