Grace Adams

SMDP Staff Writer

Following weeks of travel, gathering and celebrations, LA County does not appear to be experiencing the type of spike in COVID 19 cases that has previously been seen after holidays, according to the LA County Department of Public Health (LACDPH).

LACDPH Director Barbara Ferrer said that average case numbers remained stable at around 2,00 to 2,400 per day through the end of December and had fallen to about 1,900 per day by last week.

“It’s a relief to share that we’re not seeing a large spike in cases right now,” she said. “The trendline on case numbers provides some good insights about transmission levels, yet at the same time we know this metric doesn’t catch all or even most cases especially with so many people testing at home.”

Hospital admissions were also down as of last Thursday Jan. 12, with an average of 162 new hospital admissions per day compared to the 192 per day average in late December. However, Ferrer cautioned against complacency.

“It is important that we maintain perspective though as this number is still high,” she said, adding that last week’s numbers were “on par” with last summer’s surge in cases and hospitalizations. “This is a reminder that while our numbers are currently stable they are stable at an elevated level and we’d like to see all of these numbers continue to decline.”

Reported daily deaths were higher in the beginning of January, at 23 versus 15 in the last week of December, but Ferrer said this is reflective of death counts lagging behind case count metrics.

Certain demographics remain at higher risk for infection, hospitalization and death from COVID. This includes people 80 and over as well as those living in poverty. In LA County, data shows that hospitalization and death rates for people living in the poorest communities are almost double those in the wealthiest areas. Historical data also shows that increased transmission leads to widening of these inequities.

“This is another reason to do everything we can to avoid another dramatic rise in COVID 19 transmission,” Ferrer said.

LA County remains in the “medium” transmission tier based on CDC guidelines and Ferrer described the current impact of COVID on the healthcare system as “manageable and stable.”

While the emergence of the XPB 1.5 variant has been spreading rapidly in parts of the country, she said it currently only makes up about 3% of cases in LA.

“I think the question on just about everyone’s mind is how concerned should we be about XPB.1.5,” she said. “I suggest we should be cautious, it’s a new strain, it spreads rapidly and it can evade prior immunity however I don’t think anyone has a clear picture yet of what the impact will be.”

To mitigate the potential impact of the variant, she encouraged residents to take precautions such as testing, masking in doors and staying up to date on vaccines. According to LACDPH data, only 21% of eligible LA County residents had received the bivalent booster as of last week. The booster has continuously shown to be effective in preventing severe disease due infection.

“With more evidence that the bivalent booster provides significant protection against COVID 19 even as new strains are emerging, a critical strategy for reducing strain on the healthcare system is for more people to update their protection with the bivalent booster,” Ferrer said.

For more information on COVID in LA County and the vaccine visit: http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/media/Coronavirus/

grace@smdp.com

Grace Adams

Grace Adams is a graduate of Loyola Marymount University where she studied Spanish and journalism. She holds a Master’s degree in investigative journalism from City, University of London. She has experience...