The number of COVID-positive patients in Los Angeles County hospitals dropped below 600 Friday for the first time since early December, as the winter surge in transmission fueled by the Omicron variant continues to subside.
There were 588 patients with the coronavirus in county hospitals, down 45 from the previous day, according the latest state data. Of those patients, 108 were in intensive care, five fewer than Thursday’s total. Hospitalizations had surpassed 4,800 in mid-January. The latest numbers come as local health officials reported 1,297 new cases of COVID-19 and 48 additional deaths tied to the virus, bringing the county’s cumulative totals to 2,810,308 cases and 31,225 fatalities. The average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus was 0.9% as of Friday, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
California’s new COVID guidance for public schools goes into effect Saturday, March 12, meaning indoor masking at schools will no longer be required. However, the state and the county still strongly recommend indoor masking for students, teachers and staff regardless of vaccination status until transmission is lower.
Los Angeles County is also aligning with the state in revising isolation and quarantine requirements for TK-12 schools. Schools must continue to require COVID-19 cases to isolate, and a negative test will be required to exit isolation after day five. Masking and testing for asymptomatic students remaining at schools during their quarantine period are strongly recommended.
“Although the county is now post-surge, Public Health cautions that community transmission is substantial and poses a risk for many individuals, including numerous people working at or attending schools,” county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said. “Having children and staff fully vaccinated creates a powerful layer of protection and continuing masking while transmission is substantial adds another level of safety for both children and staff in schools. When combined with additional safety precautions, including infection control and testing, schools can continue to offer safe environments for children, staff, and their families.”
County health officials continue to urge parents to get eligible children vaccinated against the coronavirus. Health officials are 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,” Ferrer said. “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.”