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5,170 New Positive Cases and 14 New Deaths Due to COVID-19 in Los Angeles County

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July 12, 2022 ~ With continued increases in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths over the past two weeks, wearing high-quality respirator masks and getting tested are critical steps to slowing the spread of COVID-19, as vaccination, boosters, and therapeutics remain key strategies for reducing serious illness and death.

While LA County remains at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) designated COVID-19 Community Level of Medium, the county is very likely to move into High later this week as the rate of daily new admissions continues to increase. Using LA County specific data, as of yesterday, the county was at 8.8 new admissions per 100,000 people. Once the county reaches 10 new admissions per 100,000 residents, the county will enter the High Community Level. Should the county remain in the High Community Level designation for two consecutive weeks, universal indoor masking, in alignment with the CDC, would be implemented across LA County.

Fueling the high rates of transmission is the increased circulation of new highly transmissible Omicron sub-variants. The Omicron variant continues to account for 100% of the sequenced specimens, with a steady increase in the proportions of the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants. To date, Public Health has detected a total of 677 positive, sequenced specimens of these two subvariants – 285 of BA.4 and 392 of BA.5. In the week ending June 18, BA.4 and BA.5 accounted for 40% of all specimens sequenced, which is over 2.5 times higher than just two weeks prior. The CDC estimates that, across the country, as of the week ending July 2 – the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of Omicron combined accounted for just over 70% of specimens, a considerable increase from the 39% just two weeks ago. 

In both the national data and LA County data, BA.4 and BA.5 both continue to outcompete the BA.2 subvariant and its sublineages, with the BA.5 subvariant increasing at a faster rate than the BA.4 subvariant. With the growing presence of BA.4 and BA.5 in LA County, the number of daily new cases continues to rise. Over the last seven days, the average number of daily new cases reported was 5,706, a 15% increase from two weeks ago when the average number of daily new cases reported was 4,960.

After weeks of high case numbers fueled by highly infectious strains of COVID, the number of people severely ill and needing to be hospitalized is increasing rapidly. Over the last seven days, the average number of COVID-positive patients per day in LA County hospitals was 1,035, a 40% increase from two weeks ago when the average number of COVID-positive patients per day was 741.

Deaths, which typically lag hospitalizations by several weeks are also increasing, with an average of 14 deaths reported per day this past week, compared to an average of eight deaths two weeks ago.

As COVID infections remain devastating for thousands of individuals, it is important to note that COVID is still a leading cause of death in LA County. Since January 2022, over 4,300 county residents have died from COVID; this is more than the average number of all annual deaths from influenza, colds, motor vehicle fatalities, and overdoses together. On average, there is only one death each year from the common cold, and less than 1,500 from influenza.

Given the evidence that COVID is more deadly than both colds and influenza, appropriate strategies are needed to reduce high transmission, since only those infected can suffer the most severe of outcomes from the virus.

Studies continue to show that widespread, universal masking with well-fitting, high-quality masks, remains one of the simplest, most effective measures to reduce transmission of COVID. 

One study showed that, in 2020, counties that had a mask mandate had case rates that were 35% lower than counties that did not have one. In fall of 2021, school districts in Arkansas that had a mask requirement had case rates 23% lower than school districts that did not have such a requirement.

Studies show that respirators continue to provide especially good protection. A 2021 study in California found that people who regularly used respirators like N95s or KN95s had 83% lower odds of testing positive than people who never wore masks.

Well-fitting respirators are particularly important for those at elevated risk. Respirators such as a N95, KN95, and KF94 are designed to filter out very small particles, with N95 and KN95 respirators filtering at least 95% of airborne particles and KF94s filtering at least 94%. Respirators that fit well and provide a tight seal on the face provide more protection than a cloth mask or a medical mask.

“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. “Public Health recognizes that when we return to universal indoor masking to help reduce high spread, for many this will feel like a step backwards. It may be more useful to recognize that we have a very rich toolkit that we can use to cope with the uncertainty of the trajectory of the pandemic. All of the tools we have can help us get through different challenges.  When transmission is very high, universal indoor masking makes a lot of sense and helps us reduce risk.  When transmission is lower, it is appropriate to return to masking recommendations. Thank you to the millions of LA County residents who continue to take care of each other. Your actions make a difference and help protect our entire community from the worst impacts of the pandemic.”

Today, Public Health reported 14 additional deaths and 5,170 new positive cases. Of the 14 new deaths reported today, one person was between the ages of 30-49, four people were between the ages of 50-64, four people were between the ages of 65-79, and five people were aged 80 years or older. Of the 14 newly reported deaths, 12 had underlying health conditions. To date, the total number of deaths in L.A. County is 32,464.

Public Health has reported a total of 3,183,359 positive cases of COVID-19 across all areas of L.A. County. Today’s positivity rate is 16.3%.

There are 1,153 people with COVID-19 currently hospitalized. Testing results are available for more than 12,238,563 individuals, with 23% of people testing positive.