The number of COVID-19-positive patients in Los Angeles County hospitals continued to plummet Tuesday, nearing the 700 mark for the first time since mid-December, according to figures released Tuesday.
State figures showed 706 COVID-positive patients in county hospitals, down from 731 on Monday. The number of those patients being treated in intensive care units was 133, up slightly from 130 on Monday.
The number of patients with COVID in county hospitals has been steadily declining since late January, when the number topped 4,800 amid a surge of infections fueled by the Omicron variant of the virus. The precipitous decline has led to a loosening of many pandemic restrictions, most notably a lifting of the county’s indoor mask-wearing mandate last week. But county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer continued to urge residents to consider wearing masks, saying in a statement Monday that they still offer strong protection against virus transmission.
“Although masking is not required, both the state and our Public Health Department are strongly recommending masking, regardless of vaccination status, in indoor public spaces,” Ferrer said. “And those who are at elevated risk, or who live with someone who is at elevated risk, should wear a well- fitting respirator, as they provide the best protection against COVID-19.
“COVID-related illness can be quite dangerous for many, since even those initially experiencing relatively mild illness can go on to develop long COVID. Taking sensible precautions remains the best way to keep everyone as safe as possible,” Ferrer said.
The county lifted its indoor mask mandate for most locations on Friday, March 4, following the state’s lead. But the masks are still “strongly recommended” by the state and the county.
Masking is still required in higher-risk settings, including health care facilities, transit centers, airports, aboard public transit, in correctional facilities and at homeless shelters and long-term care facilities.
Indoor masks also continue to be required on K-12 school campuses, although the county and state will lift that requirement on Saturday, March 12.
The county on Tuesday reported 39 new COVID-19-related deaths, bringing the overall death toll from the virus to 31,084. Another 852 new cases were reported, giving the county a cumulative total from throughout the pandemic of 2,805,949. The average rate of people testing positive for the virus was 0.7% as of Tuesday.