LOS ANGELES (CNS) – The number of people hospitalized with a coronavirus infection in Los Angeles County has dropped below 500 once again, declining by 20 people to 480, according to the latest state figures.
Of those patients hospitalized as of Saturday, 59 were being treated in intensive care, down from 63 the previous day.
The latest numbers come one day after county health officials reported 1,336 new cases of COVID-19 and 11 additional fatalities linked to the virus, bringing the county’s totals to 3,464,157 cases and 33,740 deaths since the pandemic began.
Daily case numbers reported by the county have been falling steadily for weeks, although health officials have conceded that the official figures could be misleading due to residents primarily using at-home tests that aren’t reported to the county.
As of Friday, the average seven-day rate of people testing positive for the virus in the county was 4.6%.
COVID hospitalization numbers have been generally declining over the past few months, reflecting overall decreases in virus transmission in the county. In mid-July, there were more than 1,300 virus-positive patients in county hospitals.
County officials have said that roughly 40% of those patients were admitted specifically for COVID, while the others were hospitalized for other reasons but tested positive upon admission.
County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer again Friday urged residents to take advantage of new COVID-19 booster shots, noting that they are specifically engineered to combat Omicron variants of the virus, which are the most common in circulation. She also noted that protection residents got with the original series of shots is likely waning, raising their risk of infection and more severe illness.
“While the original vaccines do continue to provide significant protection against severe illness and death, it is important to know that these early vaccines may provide less protection against the transmission of the virus,” Ferrer said in a statement Friday. “For the county’s vulnerable residents who are 65 and older, it is especially important to get the new, updated fall booster. Keeping older and more vulnerable residents safe also means testing before gathering indoors and staying away if we are sick. With the cooler weather and fall holidays, many more of us will be staying indoors, gathering with others, or traveling, so it is still practical to follow all health safety measures.”
Ferrer told reporters Thursday that recent testing of COVID-19 samples has shown a small but discernable increase in a number of new variants of the virus, most notably a variant known as BA.4.6, which represented 5% of tested samples, up from 3% a week ago. The county has also now detected three samples of BA.2.75.2, which has been spreading in parts of Asia and Europe and appears to be able to avoid current vaccinations. Samples of a variant known as BF.7 have also been detected.
Health officials have long warned that as long as COVID continues spreading, the more likely it is that mutations, or variants, will develop that could spread more quickly or cause more severe illness.
Ferrer said the county will be closely watching trends in variants locally, noting that while the increases thus far are small, they could potentially spread as people spend more time indoors during the winter. With more people mingling inside, “a variant that has an advantage in transmission and evades protections more easily will flourish,” she said.
“We need to be prepared for increases that are likely going to be associated with colder weather,” Ferrer said.