Los Angeles County officially moved into the “low” COVID-19 activity level Thursday, Sept. 1, thanks to a falling rate of new infections and a continued slower pace of new virus-related hospital admissions.
But the county’s public health director warned that despite the move, transmission of the virus remains widespread, and she urged continued precaution against infection.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention moved Los Angeles County into the “low” category Thursday, with the average rate of new COVID infections falling below the threshold of 200 per 100,000 residents. The official infection rate as of Thursday was about 193 new cases per 100,000 residents. The county’s hospitalization numbers also remained low, with the average daily rate of new virus-related admissions estimated at 9 per 100,000 residents — below the CDC’s threshold of 10 per 100,000 residents.
Those statistics were good enough to move the county out of the “medium” activity category. The move has no practical effect for residents since it will not trigger any changes in public health protocols, with most restrictions already lifted.
“Moving into the low community level reflects minimal stress on the hospital care system in L.A. County associated with COVID-19,” Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer told reporters during an online briefing. “However, viral transmission with a case rate of just below 200 is still high, as it represents about 2,600 new cases a day. Our hope is that we can continue to slow transmission so that we reach a weekly case rate of less than 100, which would drop that daily number of new cases to 1,400.”
Ferrer has also noted that the official number of new cases reported each day is an undercount of actual virus activity in the county, since many people rely on at-home tests, the results of which are not reported to the county. The county reported another 2,566 new cases on Thursday, along with 17 new virus-related deaths. The average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus was 8.3% as of Thursday.
Ferrer again noted a glitch in the data-reporting system hospitals use to share COVID patient numbers with the state, leading to some fluctuations in the figures over the past week. But the state on Thursday reported 760 COVID- positive patients in Los Angeles County hospitals, down from 796 on Wednesday. Of those patients, 90 were being treated in intensive care, up from 79 a day earlier.
Health officials have said roughly 43% of COVID-positive hospital patients were actually admitted for virus-related illness, while the others were admitted for other reasons, with some only learning they were infected when they were tested at the hospital.
Los Angeles County was placed in the CDC’s “high” virus level in mid- July, a result of a new infection rate that topped 200 per 100,000 residents and an average daily virus-related hospitalization rate that topped 10 per 100,000 residents. The county lingered in that category for about a month, raising the possibility of a new indoor mask-wearing mandate, although health officials ultimately decided against re-imposing the rule.
On Aug. 12, the county moved back to the “medium” category when the hospitalization rate fell below 10 per 100,000 residents.
Ferrer said the county is expected next week to begin offering the newly approved COVID vaccine booster doses specifically engineered to combat the Omicron variant of the virus. The county anticipates receiving 170,000 doses of the new booster shots by the middle of next week.