LOS ANGELES (CNS) – COVID-19-positive hospitalizations continued to fall in Los Angeles County today, moving residents closer to a lifting of outdoor mask-wearing mandates, but another 75 virus-related deaths were also reported.
The 75 new deaths gave the county a pandemic death toll of 29,764. The county also reported 5,610 new cases, for a cumulative total of 2,752,398.
According to state figures, there were 2,307 COVID-positive patients in county hospitals as of Friday, down from 2,464 on Thursday. Of those patients, 469 were being treated in intensive care, down from 492 a day earlier.
Under guidelines announced last week by county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer, if the hospitalization number stays below 2,500 for seven consecutive days, the county will consider itself to be entering a “post-surge” phase, and it will lift its mask mandate for outdoor “mega-events” and outdoors at schools and childcare centers. Friday marked the second day of sub-2,500 hospitalizations.
Ferrer said Thursday that absent a sudden increase in hospitalizations, the outdoor mask mandate could be lifted as early as next Wednesday.
Ferrer on Friday again urged vaccinated residents to obtain booster shots, noting that the effectiveness of vaccines wanes over time, and saying the additional dose is the best defense against a trip to a hospital due to the virus.
“Given the evidence of waning protection over time from the COVID vaccines, eligible residents and workers should get boosted as soon as possible,” she said in a statement. “As we think about the `post-surge’ strategies, increasing the number of people optimally protected from COVID infection helps us decrease the number of people who become seriously ill and die from COVID. Appropriate actions that allow us to live with this virus without major disruptions to our lives will need to include strategies that reduce the impact of the virus on those most vulnerable.”
While the county’s outdoor masking requirements could be lifted next week, the indoor masking mandate will remain in place until much stricter criteria are met. That’s in spite of the state planning to lift its indoor mask requirement for vaccinated people next week.
According to Ferrer, the county’s indoor mask rule will not be lifted until the county’s virus-transmission rate falls to the “moderate” level as defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for two straight weeks, or until COVID vaccines have been available to children under 5 years old for eight weeks.
Reaching the CDC’s “moderate” designation requires the county to have a cumulative, seven-day new case rate of less than 50 per 100,000 residents. According to the CDC’s website, the county’s rate was 518 per 100,000 as of Friday. That’s down from 622 per 100,000 residents on Thursday.
Ferrer said the county’s rate has been dropping roughly by about 3.5% every day, and if that pace continues, the county could reach the “moderate” transmission level in 25 to 30 days. If so, the indoor mask mandate could potentially be lifted by late March.
She also noted that vaccines for children under age 5 could potentially be approved by the end of February.
The average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus was 4% as of Friday, down from 4.7% Thursday.
As of Feb. 6, 82% of all eligible county residents aged 5 and older have received at least one dose of COVID vaccine, 73% are fully vaccinated and 35% are fully vaccinated with a booster shot.
For the overall county population of about 10.3 million people, 78% have received at least one dose, 70% are fully vaccinated and 33% are vaccinated and boosted.