COVID-19 hospitalizations in Los Angeles County continued an unsettling upward climb Wednesday as new infections continued to mount amid growing concerns about a winter virus surge.
According to state figures, there were 770 COVID-positive patients in county hospitals as of Wednesday, up from 751 on Tuesday — but up about 100 from a week ago and roughly 200 above the number from late November.
Of the hospitalized patients, 179 were being treated in intensive care, down from 184 on Tuesday.
Another 19 COVID deaths were reported by the county on Wednesday, giving the county an overall virus-related death toll of 27,369. The county also confirmed another 1,850 new COVID infections, raising the cumulative pandemic total to 1,551,117. The rolling average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus remained relatively low, at 1.2%.
Health officials have been pointing to a post-Thanksgiving uptick in infections and case rates — prompting the state to reimpose a statewide indoor mask-wearing mandate on Wednesday. Los Angeles County already had such a mandate in place, but the rule will force people in neighboring counties such as Orange and Riverside to mask up, although it was unclear if those counties would enforce the rule.
County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said last week the trend in COVID numbers marked what could be the onset of a winter surge in cases, and she has urged more people to get vaccinated or receive booster shots.
On Wednesday, Ferrer hailed the work of community organizations for their help encouraging residents in hard-hit areas to get the vaccine.
“Longstanding inequities in access to health affirming opportunities have played an important role in contributing to the higher case, hospitalization and death rates experienced by Black and Latinx communities over the course of the pandemic,” Ferrer said in a statement. “To overcome these inequities, we need to work to address multiple challenges in the equitable distribution of the very resources we each need to be healthy: clean air and water, healthy foods, safe parks, affordable housing, good jobs, and quality healthcare.
“This is the work that we will need to do if we are serious about building trust with residents and workers across our communities,” she said. “Our partnerships with community organizations have taught us the importance of strengthening relationships and aligning resources with those who have often been marginalized and left behind.”
Black and Latino/a residents have consistently lagged behind their white and Asian counterparts in getting vaccinated against COVID-19, although there has been some upward movement in the vaccination numbers.
As of last week, 83% of Los Angeles County residents aged 12 and over had received at least one dose of vaccine, and 75% were fully vaccinated. Of all eligible residents aged 5 and over, 77% have received at least one dose, and 69% are fully vaccinated. Of the more than 6.15 million fully vaccinated people in the county, 84,931 have tested positive, or about 1.38%. A total of 2,798 vaccinated people have been hospitalized, for a rate of 0.046%, and 537 have died, for a rate of 0.009%.
The county on Tuesday confirmed eight additional cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, raising the county’s total to 15. Long Beach and Pasadena, both of which operate their own health departments separate from the county, have each confirmed one Omicron case. The Omicron variant was first detected in South Africa, but it has quickly spread to dozens of countries worldwide. While the variant is blamed for a spike in cases in South Africa, studies are continuing on whether Omicron is more dangerous, more easily transmitted or potentially resistant to vaccines.
Health officials have thus far said current vaccinations appear to be effective against the variant.
Omicron has been deemed a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.