Los Angeles County reported 20,198 new COVID-19 infections on Thursday, lifting the county’s overall total since the pandemic began to 1,669,545.
“We are, in fact, experiencing the worst of the surge at the moment with the rising number of cases,” County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said during an online briefing.
Another 24 COVID-related deaths were also reported, giving the county an overall death toll of 27,625. The number of COVID-positive patients in county hospitals also continued rising, with state figures showing the number at 1,365 as of Thursday, up from 1,251 on Wednesday. The number of those patients in intensive care was 214, up from 198 a day earlier.
Ferrer said that while circulation of the highly transmissible Omicron variant of COVID-19 has led to more fully vaccinated people getting infected, hospitalizations continue to be affecting primarily unvaccinated people. She said the hospitalization rate for unvaccinated people is 28 per 100,000 residents, while the rate for the vaccinated has remained relatively flat at 1 per 100,000.
“Vaccination continues to be highly protective against hospitalization,” Ferrer said.
Ferrer said statistics show unvaccinated people are 14 times more likely to die from the virus than the vaccinated. She also noted that overall, death rates have remained relatively flat in the county, despite the dramatic surge in infections, but she said that could change.
“Deaths fortunately remain low and they haven’t changed, but this is because we’re only about a week out from when our hospitalizations started rising,” she said.
Officials have said about 90% of the COVID deaths during the pandemic occurred in people who had underlying health conditions. The most common conditions are hypertension, diabetes and heart disease. According to county figures, of the more than 6.3 million fully vaccinated people in the county, 127,172 have tested positive for the virus, for a rate of 2%, while 3,094 have been hospitalized, for a rate of 0.05%. A total of 602 fully vaccinated people have died, for a rate of 0.01%.
Ferrer and county Supervisor Holly Mitchell urged residents to be cautious as they celebrate New Year’s Eve, with Ferrer noting, “The risk of virus transmission has never been higher in our county.” She urged people to avoid large gatherings, and gather outside whenever possible. People who have underlying health conditions or aren’t vaccinated should avoid gatherings altogether, Ferrer said.