Nearly 19,000 new COVID-19 cases were confirmed Monday, July 18, in Los Angeles County, dating back to Saturday, along with 29 new virus- related fatalities.
According to the county Department of Public Health, 7,503 cases were confirmed Saturday, 7,403 on Sunday and 3,943 on Monday, with weekend reporting lags contributing to Monday’s relatively low total. The 18,849 combined new cases lifted the county’s cumulative total from throughout the pandemic to 3,225,697.
The actual number of infections in the county, however, is likely to be much higher thanks to the prevalence of residents using take-home COVID tests, the results of which are not generally reported to the county and added to the official total. The 29 new deaths reported from the weekend gave the county an overall virus-related death toll of 32,537.
The average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus was 16% as of Monday. The county does not report COVID data on weekends.
The number of COVID-positive patients in county hospitals was not immediately available, due to a delay in reporting from the state. As of Saturday, there were 1,252 virus-positive patients in hospitals, with 116 of them being treated in intensive care. Steadily rising hospital numbers over the past few weeks led to the county being moved into the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “high” virus-activity level on Thursday, July 14. The move came when the average daily rate of COVID hospitalizations rose to 10.5 per 100,000 residents, surpassing the threshold of 10 per 100,000.
If the county remains in the “high” category for two weeks — which appears inevitable — it will reinstate a universal mandatory indoor mask- wearing mandate. That is expected to occur on July 29. If the mask mandate takes effect, it will remain in place until the county falls back to the “medium” virus-activity category for two weeks.
Masks are already still mandated in some indoor spaces — health care facilities, transit hubs, on transit vehicles, airports, correctional facilities and shelters. A universal mandate would spread the requirement to all indoor public spaces, including shared office spaces, manufacturing facilities, retail stores, indoor events, indoor restaurants and bars and schools.
County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said the recent spike in infections — leading to the ultimate rise in hospitalizations and deaths — has been fueled by the BA.4 and BA.5 variants of the virus. Most recent statistics show that of the county COVID cases undergoing specialized testing to identify variants, 48.2% were BA.5 and 14% were BA.4. That combined 62% rate is double the proportion from two weeks ago.
Health officials said the variants are dramatically more contagious than previous strains thanks to their ability to infect people who were previously infected with other variants, even those who are fully vaccinated and boosted.