Los Angeles County health officials urged employers Monday to use “common sense strategies” to combat COVID-19 in light of increasing spread of the virus. The urging came as the county reported 5,920 new infections from the past three days, along with 13 new virus-related fatalities.
The county no longer reports case and death numbers on weekends. On Monday, May 2, the county reported 1,368 new infections, along with 2,728 from Saturday and 1,824 from Sunday. The new cases gave the county a cumulative total from throughout the pandemic of 2,877,960. The 13 new fatalities lifted the county’s overall death toll to 31,970.
Health officials have been reporting elevated daily case numbers in recent weeks, attributable largely to the BA.2 subvariant of the virus. An offshoot of that variant — known as BA.2.12.1 — has also begun spreading locally, and health officials said it is believed to be 20% to 30% more infectious than BA.2.
In light of the growing spread of the virus, county health officials on Monday urged employers to take steps to protect employees and customers from infections, such as providing well-fitting masks, improving ventilation, screening employees who may be experiencing symptoms and adhering to isolation/quarantine guidelines and reporting clusters of cases.
“While relieved that the latest increases in cases are not yet accompanied by corresponding increases in hospitalizations, the higher rate of infection we are experiencing causes substantial disruption and leads to a vicious cycle of more transmission is worrisome,” Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement. “With high transmission comes the risk of breeding new variants of concern, the possibility of more people experiencing long COVID, and increased risk among those more vulnerable to severe illness should they become infected. Curtailing outbreaks at worksites can help slow down transmission back in the communities and we thank those employers that continue to have in place safety measures that keep employees and customers as safe as possible.”
Virus-related hospitalizations have remained relatively low despite the growing number of cases — something Ferrer has chalked up to vaccinations and previous infections that have increased immunity and prevented infections from leading to severe illness.
As of Monday, there were 225 COVID-positive patients in county hospitals, down from 226 on Sunday, according to state figures. The number of those patients being treated in intensive care was 24, down from 28 a day earlier. The average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus was 1.6% as of Monday, roughly the same as the previous week.
Ferrer said last week the BA.2.12.1 variant was detected in 7% of L.A. County infections that underwent testing to identify variants during the week that ended April 9 — up from 3% the previous week. She said state officials have estimated that BA.2.12.1 could represent half of all infections in California within a matter of days.
Researchers have not yet determined if the variant causes more severe illness or is more evasive of existing vaccines.