As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise, hospitals in Los Angeles County are expected to soon be overwhelmed with patients, the county’s chief health officer said Thursday, noting that rising outbreaks in facilities skilled nursing care has already resulted in stricter infection control measures.
With 21 COVID outbreaks in skilled nursing facilities recently recorded across the county, staff at these facilities are now required to wear N95-level masks at all times and undergo testing twice a week, while residents must undergo weekly tests. All communal meals have also been halted, county public health director Barbara Ferrer said.
All non-essential indoor group activities are also suspended, she said.
The tightening of the rules comes as the county continues to see increases in cases. Another 6,245 COVID infections were reported in the county on Thursday, one of the highest single-day numbers in weeks. Over the past seven days, the county has averaged more than 4,200 new infections per day, and the rate of people testing positive for the virus daily has risen to 4.1% from 3.8% the previous day.
The county’s seven-day cumulative new case rate is now 280 per 100,000 people, up from 246 a week ago. The rate keeps the county firmly in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “medium” virus activity category.
At this time, the county’s COVID-related hospital statistics are still low enough to prevent the county from moving to the CDC’s “high” activity category. Being moved to “high” would mean a return to mandatory indoor mask wearing.
According to CDC guidelines, counties in the “medium” category will move to “high” if the rate of new virus-related hospital admissions reaches 10 per 100,000 population, or if 10% of hospital beds staffed with County staff are busy with COVID-positive patients.
Ferrer said the current rate of virus-related hospital admissions in the county is now 4.5 per 100,000 — double the rate from a month ago — and the rate of staffed beds in staff occupied by COVID patients is currently 2.3%.
Although these numbers are well below the level of the “high” category, Ferrer noted that “if we continue on the current trajectory, we could find cases and hospitalizations that would end up stressing our hospital system in just a few weeks. “.
State figures Thursday showed 429 COVID-positive patients were being treated at county hospitals, down from 410 on Wednesday. The number of those patients treated in intensive care was 55, up slightly from 52 a day earlier.
Although health officials noted that many COVID-positive patients had been admitted to hospitals for reasons other than the virus, Ferrer said they still needed advanced levels of care that put medical centers at risk. tough test.
“They require a lot of different resources that are of a higher intensity, so that inherently puts more pressure on the system,” she said.
Ferrer also noted that more infectious strains of the virus continue to proliferate. In the last round of specialized testing to identify variants, 36.4% of the cases tested were the result of a subvariant known as BA.2.12.1. This subvariant is considered exponentially more transmissible than its parent variant, BA.2, and significantly more transmissible than the Omicron variant that triggered a winter spike in cases.
Another variant, BA.2.3, is also slowly emerging in the county, accounting for 7.6% of cases tested in the most recent sampling.
Ferrer said current vaccines still prove effective against all variants — not necessarily preventing infections but generally leading to less severe disease in those who are infected.
Ferrer reported nine more COVID-related deaths on Thursday. She said the county now has a seven-day average of about seven deaths per day.