Nearly 13,000 new COVID-19 cases were reported in Los Angeles County Monday, covering infections recorded over the past three days, while the virus-related death toll rose by 17.
According to the county Department of Public Health, another 6,385 virus cases were confirmed Saturday, along with 3,583 Sunday and 2,998 Monday. The new cases — with the numbers likely low due to delays in reporting from the weekend — lifted the county’s cumulative pandemic total to 3,038,588.
The 17 new deaths since Saturday gave the county an overall death toll of 32,218. The county no longer releases COVID numbers over the weekend. The number of COVID-positive patients in county hospitals, meanwhile, rose to 593, up from 574 a day earlier. The number of those patients being treated in intensive care was 62, down from 70 on Sunday. County health officials said over the past seven days, the county has averaged 580 virus-positive patients per day in hospitals, a 124% increase from the daily average of 259 a month ago.
Health officials have noted that many of the COVID-positive patients were admitted to hospitals for a reason other than the virus, and many only realized they were infected when they were tested upon admission. But county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer stressed that even though patients may have been admitted for other reasons, the fact they are infected with the virus forces hospitals to take extra precautions to prevent it from spreading, adding to the strain on the health care system overall.
Rising case numbers have been attributed to increasing spread of COVID variants, with the BA.2.12.1 variant currently growing in influence locally and nationally. Federal authorities, meanwhile, are closely watching the increasing spread of the BA.4 and BA.5 variants, which are still relatively rare in Los Angeles County but have been slowly growing nationally.
“The concern with the rapidity of emerging highly infectious variants is that for each new variant, we need to reassess how much the new strain evades vaccine protection, causes severe illness, and avoids detection with current tests,” Ferrer said in a statement Monday. “And to be dominant, the new strains are likely to be even more infectious than the previous strains. Until we have a more precise understanding of how the new viral strains interact with us and our community, we need to remain vigilant and cautious. This includes layering protections to keep those most vulnerable as safe as possible, including wearing masks indoors, getting tested before gathering or attending events, and staying home if you are sick.”
The county and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are keeping close watch on local hospital numbers. Los Angeles County is already in the CDC’s “medium” category for virus activity. It will move into the “high” category if its average daily rate of new COVID-related hospital admissions rises above 10 per 100,000 residents, or if the percentage of staffed hospital beds occupied by COVID-positive patients tops 10%.
The figures have both been slowly rising over the past several weeks, with the rate of new admissions reaching 6.4 per 100,000 residents on Thursday, up from 5.2 a week ago. The portion of hospital beds in the county occupied by virus patients was 3.1% as of Thursday, up from 2.7% from a week ago.
If the county is moved into the “high” category, it will re-impose a mandatory indoor mask-wearing mandate.
Health officials are already strongly recommending that people wear masks indoors. Masks are still mandatory in high-risk settings such as health- care facilities, aboard transit vehicles and in transit centers, in correctional facilities and at long-term care facilities.
Ferrer said last week that at the current rate of increases in hospitalizations, the county will move into the “high” category by early July.