Public Health is continuing to track the impact of the pandemic in LA County using the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID-19 Community Levels framework and the County’s Early Alert Signals.
Currently, the county remains at the CDC designated COVID-19 Medium Community Level. However, there are increasing concerns about the impact of new Omicron sub-variants on transmission and hospitalizations that could result in the County moving into the High Community Level designation sometime later this summer.
Our seven-day case rate is currently at 326 cases per week per 100,000 people, an increase from last week when the case rate was 307.
The first of two hospital metrics in the CDC Community Levels Framework is the seven-day total of new hospital admissions per 100,000, which rose this past week to 8.1 admissions per 100,000 people. This is a 56% increase compared to one month ago. The second hospital metric, the seven-day average for the proportion of staffed inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients, also increased this past week to 4.2%.
If the county moves into the CDC designated High Community Level and remains there for two consecutive weeks, the county would implement a universal indoor masking requirement for everyone age 2 and older in LA County as a safety measure aligned with the CDC framework. The safety measure would remain in effect until the county returned to the CDC Medium Community Level designation, or lower, for two consecutive weeks.
It’s important to note that Public Health can’t predict with certainty what the future hospitalization trend will look like. Hospitalizations could level off or begin to decline. With the continued proliferation of new Omicron subvariants, it is very difficult to accurately predict the rate of hospitalizations, so Public Health will continue to closely monitor the CDC metrics.
Because hospitalizations are a lagging indicator, it is important to also track other metrics that indicate areas of concern and/or risk. Our Early Alert signals track both community and sector specific pandemic activity. As a reminder, school outbreaks will not be tracked over the summer since schools are closed.
Six of the seven Early Alert metrics Public Health are tracking continue to convey cause for Medium or High Concern. Moreover, in the past week, four Early Alert Signals moved upward in the level of concern: The case rate in the lowest income areas and the number of new outbreaks at Skilled Nursing Facilities per week, both moved up to High Concern. The number of new outbreaks in settings for People Experiencing Homelessness is now at Medium Concern. And the number of worksite clusters increased, moving from Medium to High Concern for the first time since Public Health started tracking this metric in early March.
There was also an uptick in the percentage of Emergency Department Visits. The only measure indicating Low Concern is the number of sewer systems with a two-fold increase in viral load.
When a sector-specific metric moves up in level of concern, additional safety measures are implemented, and remain in place until the level of concern has dropped for two weeks. For example, although there has been some fluctuation in the elevated level of concerns at nursing homes based on their outbreak numbers, and they move between Medium and High Concern for a couple of weeks now, the enhanced protection measures that were put in place under High Concern are still in place – requiring staff to wear N95 respirators at all times in the facility, conducting routine testing twice weekly for staff and weekly for residents, regardless of vaccination status, and moving, where possible, communal activities outdoors.
“I send my deepest sympathies and wishes of peace and comfort to the many families who have lost a loved one from COVID-19,” said Barbara Ferrer, PhD, MPH, MEd, Director of Public Health. “Since July 4 is right around the corner and many of us are looking forward to celebrating Independence Day with family and friends, it is important to remember that many of our loved ones may be older adults, or have serious underlying health conditions, or not yet been vaccinated and boosted. Given the rising number of COVID cases and hospitalizations, and the increased circulation of the more infectious BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants, it is extra important to take steps that reduce the risk of transmission especially over the long holiday weekend; this helps us protect ourselves, our families, and our community. With a little planning, you can have a great time celebrating while keeping each other safe. Please be sure to remind friends and family to stay home and skip the celebration if they feel sick or have tested positive. It is also a great idea for everyone to test themselves before getting together, ideally on the day of the gathering. It is always best to celebrate outdoors, and if people come indoors for part of the gathering, wearing a mask is advisable, particularly if there are individuals at high risk of severe illness should they become infected. Let’s use the tools at hand to enjoy our summer, our holiday, and our time with others.”
A wide range of data and dashboards on COVID-19 from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health are available on the Public Health website at http://www.publichealth.lacounty.gov.