Overview:

The number of Covid cases in Los Angeles County has started to level off but officials said this week they think the region has plateaued.

The surging number of Covid cases in Los Angeles County has started to level off but officials said this week they think the region has plateaued rather than peaked and warned that upcoming holiday gatherings could trigger a new wave of cases.

The County has experienced a decrease in the seven day average case numbers with an average of nearly 3,000 cases reported per day, a 21% decrease from the seven day average of nearly 3,800 cases reported per day last week. Despite this decline, current cases are still up by about 120% from one month ago.

Dr. Barbara Ferrer, Director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said she remained optimistic the county could avoid the worst case scenarios if residents took steps to limit their exposures now.

“I would say as we get closer to Christmas and Kwanzaa and there’s Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, we have a big World Cup this weekend, and you know, I think that might drive another increase in our cases, but I don’t have a crystal ball. I think we just plateaued. We’re not really going down significantly. But what we are not doing right now, is not going up significantly on the cases.”

She said case counts were certainly an undercount and therefore did not paint a true picture of the disease’s spread.

“I think the troubling number for all of us is that the case rates under represent the real count of transmission, which is why we continue to see relatively high numbers of people in the hospitals even though our case rates are slightly lower than they were at other times during surge,” she said. “I think that’s because the case rates don’t really reflect the true amount of transmission.”

She said the number of Covid related deaths, while also troubling, was perhaps a more accurate, measurement.

“You know, people can be concerned and note that the hospitalization numbers can be a little bit misleading because they really account for a lot of people who are in the hospital for other reasons. But the death data really does reflect people who are dying of COVID related illness,” she said. “And, you know, it’s distressing to see that number be slightly higher at this point in the winter season than it was last year. And it just again indicates for some people this remains a very deadly disease and we need to continue to make sure they have access to preventive measures that would hopefully avoid the need for them to have experienced severe illness and then tragically end up passing away.”

While available hospital beds for Covid are at an all-time low, Ferrer said that metric isn’t as disastrous as it sounds because at earlier points in the pandemic, more temporary beds had been made available and all non-essential procedures were canceled. Those steps dramatically increased the total number of beds available which makes comparisons to that point in time less relevant.

She said while some county leaders have expressed a strong opposition to the idea of a mask mandate, all options would remain on the table at this point as masks would help protect medically fragile people.

“So I think that what is hard and what we’ve acknowledged is, it’s very hard for all of us going into year three. We’d like to be done and symbolically keeping a mask on for us in this country, where we don’t have a history of wearing masks to protect ourselves from respiratory illnesses, has been really aligned with that, this pandemic might never end.”

She said officials recognize some residents just want to be done with the pandemic.

“Our job in public health is to really continue to do our very best to prevent people from having severe illness and dying and to use all of the tools available to make sure that our healthcare system works for everyone who needs health care, not just people with COVID, but everyone so that it doesn’t get so stressed that care gets compromised.”

On Thursday the department reported 3,192 cases (3,595,218 to date), 22 deaths (34,390 to date) and 1,256 people currently hospitalized. More than 12,781,000 individuals tested; 25% of people tested positive to date.

editor@smdp.com

Matthew Hall

Matthew Hall has a Masters Degree in International Journalism from City University in London and has been Editor-in-Chief of SMDP since 2014. Prior to working at SMDP he managed a chain of weekly papers...