The surge of COVID-19 infections are continuing to drive up hospitalizations, with state figures Monday showing the number of virus-positive patients in Los Angeles County medical centers nearing 2,000, the highest level since last winter.
According to the state, there were 1,994 COVID-positive patients in county hospitals as of Monday, Jan. 3, a jump of more than 200 from the previous day and the highest number since last February. There were 278 of those patients in intensive care, up from 263 on Sunday.
The county Department of Public Health reported that the number of pediatric COVID patients — while still relatively small — increased by nearly 190% from Dec. 4-25, with children under 4 seeing the biggest pediatric increase. Although current figures were not immediately available, county officials told City News Service last week that on Dec. 2, there were eight pediatric patients hospitalized with COVID in the county, but that number jumped to 21 on Dec. 23.
“As students return to the classroom, we all need to follow the public health safety measures in place to ensure our schools can open safely after the winter break,” Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement. “Because higher community transmission creates additional challenges at our schools, everyone needs to do their part to slow the spread of the virus.
“Most importantly, given that vaccinations and boosters provide the most protection against COVID-19, reducing transmission and disruptions in learning at schools, families need to act urgently to get their school-aged children vaccinated,” Ferrer said.
The county issued revised guidelines late last week for schools, requiring teachers and staff to wear upgraded surgical-grade masks, while also requiring mask-wearing outdoors for students when physical distancing isn’t possible. The county will also be helping to distribute at-home test kits being made available by the state to all students in California.
With the highly transmissible Omicron variant of COVID-19 fueling spread of the virus, the county’s case numbers have been skyrocketing over the past week. The county reported nearly 45,000 new cases over the weekend, following a daily record high of 27,091 new infections on Friday.
On Monday — when case and fatality numbers are traditionally low due to reporting delays from the weekend — the county announced eight more COVID- related deaths and 16,269 new cases. The numbers increased the county’s COVID death toll to 24,647, and the cumulative pandemic case number to 1,757,522. The rolling seven-day average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus was 22.5% as of Monday. That rate was below 1% in November.
With hospitalizations rising, county health officials are urging residents to avoid visiting hospital emergency rooms unless they urgently need emergency care.
“Residents should not be visiting the emergency department solely to get a COVID test or for minor complaints that could be resolved through their primary care physician,” according to the county.