LA County COVID Threat Eases, Post-Christmas Wave Possible
Coronavirus cases in Los Angeles County have stabilized, edging out the prospect of a new indoor mask mandate just after the New Year, but a second wave linked to Christmas and other gatherings remains a possibility.
LA County reported 2,911 coronavirus cases per day in the week ended Friday, down 20% from the previous week. That’s a per capita case rate of 202 cases per week per 100,000 population. A rate of 100 or more is considered high.
Hospitalization rates have also halted their inexorable rise.
Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said she is looking at case and hospitalization rates for a plateau in LA County, rather than depicting a sustained decline. On Thursday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said LA County hospitals are admitting about 14 coronavirus-positive patients per week per 100,000 people, down 4% from the previous week.
Still, there remains a lot of virus transmission, as evidenced by the fact that the coronavirus concentration in LA County’s sewage surpassed the peak of the summer omicron surge in early December, Ferrer said.
“I would say as we approach Christmas and Kwanzaa and there is Hanukkah, the winter solstice, we have a big World Cup this weekend and I think that could lead to a further spike in our cases, but I don’t have a crystal ball. I think we just hit a plateau,” Ferrer said. “We’re not really going down significantly. But what we’re not doing right now won’t increase cases significantly.”
Recent improvements in case and hospitalization metrics mean respite from the prospect of a local indoor mask order, which could have come into effect as early as January 6.
But Ferrer couldn’t rule out a future mandate if transmission shoots up again, potentially threatening the hospital system.
“Now we’ve reached a bit of a plateau. I think we could start gaining weight again after December 25th as more people are out of school, out of work, taking vacations, traveling and congregating. And I have no way of knowing exactly how high that will be,” Ferrer said. “A lot depends on how many protective measures people take.”
These protections include getting the updated booster shot, which has only been available since September. Nationwide, 19.4% of eligible Californians have received the updated bivalent syringe.
Health officials also strongly recommend wearing masks in indoor public spaces. be tested for coronavirus infection before attending meetings; staying at home when ill; and meetings outdoors, or at least in well-ventilated spaces. Officials are also urging more doctors to prescribe anti-COVID pills like Paxlovid or molnupiravir as soon as a patient is known to be infected and that patients seek a prescription.
Paxlovid can reduce the risk of serious illness or death from COVID-19 by almost 90%. Drugs like Paxlovid are free and widely available, but officials say some doctors don’t prescribe them as often as they should.
Even as coronavirus cases fall, health concerns remain.
Los Angeles County’s available hospital bed count has fallen to its lowest level in the pandemic, reflecting not only the ongoing threat of COVID-19 and resurgences of flu and RSV, but also the needs of a population that hasn’t postponed -emergency care.