Los Angeles County reported another 40 COVID-19 deaths Thursday, and the number of hospital patients with the virus dropped below 650, while federal officials announced plans to extend the mask mandate for airplanes and public transportation through April 18.
The 40 new deaths gave the county an overall pandemic death toll of 31,178. Another 1,372 cases of COVID were also confirmed Thursday, lifting the cumulative total from throughout the pandemic to 2,808,429. The average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus was 0.9% as of Thursday.
According to state figures, there were 632 COVID-positive patients in county hospitals as of Thursday, down from 666 on Wednesday. The number of those patients being treated in intensive care units was 113, down from 122 a day earlier. Also Thursday, the federal Transportation Safety Administration announced plans to follow a Centers for Disease Control recommendation and extend the mandatory masking for passengers on airplanes and public transportation through April 18.
“During that time, CDC will work with government agencies to help inform a revised policy framework for when, and under what circumstances, masks should be required in the public transportation corridor,” the statement said. “This revised framework will be based on the COVID-19 community levels, risk of new variants, national data, and the latest science.”
Los Angeles County health officials said they were working to increase the number of providers who can offer residents access to anti-COVID therapeutics, while also striving to raise awareness about their availability.
According to the Department of Public Health, the oral medications are Paxlovid and Molnupiravir are prescription drugs that must be taken within five days of COVID symptoms developing. Paxlovid is available for anyone age 12 and older who weighs more than 88 pounds. Molnupiravir is available for anyone 18 and over.
A third medication, Evulsheld, is given through an injection and is available for people 12 and over who have not been exposed to the virus and are unable to get a COVID vaccine for medical reasons.
“Given that the new therapeutics can save the lives of residents who are at elevated risk, Public Health is working closely with partners across the county to make sure they are accessible to those who are most vulnerable to severe illness from a COVID infection,” county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement. “Having sites where residents can both get tested and receive appropriate medications if they are positive is essential and we look forward to working with federal and pharmacy partners to expand availability of `Test to Treat’ programs, especially in our under-resourced communities.”