Los Angeles County recorded another 22 COVID-19 deaths Wednesday, along with more than 1,600 new cases, although some of those new infections were the result of a backlog of testing results, health officials said.
The 22 new deaths lifted the county’s pandemic death toll to 26,683, according to the county Department of Public Health.
The county reported another 1,605 new cases, giving the county a cumulative total from throughout the pandemic of 1,496,593. County officials said the cases reported Wednesday included a backlog of 476 positive tests from a single lab, and the infections dated back to last week. The daily rolling overage rate of people testing positive for the virus in the county was 1.2% as of Wednesday. According to state figures, there were 662 COVID-positive patients hospitalized in the county as of Wednesday, up from 653 on Tuesday. Of those hospitalized, 152 were being treated in intensive care, down from 166 on Tuesday.
County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer noted Tuesday that the county has seen increases in infection rates and hospitalizations over the past week, mirroring trends seen in some other California counties and overseas in places including the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Italy.
“The trends in other places signify the need to remain vigilant and focused on preventing a significant winter-time surge,” she told the Board of Supervisors.
As of Oct. 28, 80% of county residents aged 12 and up have received at least one dose of vaccine, and 72% are fully vaccinated. Ferrer said she is hopeful that the county will reach 80% full vaccination of all residents in that age group by the winter holidays.
Ferrer on Tuesday laid out a matrix of criteria being monitored for a possible lifting of mask-wearing mandates at large outdoor events and in indoor settings such as workplaces. To consider lifting the mandates, the county must have three consecutive weeks of “moderate” virus transmission as defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That means the county must have a cumulative seven-day new case rate of less than 50 per 100,000 residents. According to the CDC, the county’s current rate is 83 per 100,000 residents, landing the county in the “substantial” transmission category. Ferrer noted that the county’s rate last week was about 72.
Other criteria that must be reached to consider lifting masking requirements are three consecutive weeks of low hospitalization numbers, a full- vaccination rate of 80% of residents aged 12 and older, and no emerging reports of widely circulating COVID-19 “variants of concern” that could lead to new surges of infections.
For indoor settings of people less than 1,000 people, including worksites, all of the same criteria must be met, and such settings must have a vaccine-verification system in place and full vaccination of all employees and customers, with other requirements for those with approved vaccine exemptions.
Ferrer said she is hopeful the county “can reach a lower level of community transmission that positions us to use the criteria … to lift the masking requirements.”
“Until then, while transmission remains substantial, we need to continue layering on protections, understanding that significant spread of the virus affects unvaccinated individuals and increasingly results in post- vaccination infections among those vaccinated,” she said. “Substantial spread also creates a fertile breeding ground for new variants that can threaten our progress to date.”