Hospitalizations for Covid increase in LA; many Angelenos did not know they carried the virus

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Photo: Deutsche Welle/JADE GAO/AFP/GETTY IMAGES / copyright

Los Angeles County has reached the highest number of hospitalizations for Covid-19 since March, health authorities said.

The latest data from Saturday reported 402 hospitalizations, one more than on Friday. 44 patients were reported in intensive care, three fewer than the 47 the day before.

Health officials have noted in recent weeks that the vast majority of patients hospitalized for Covid-19 were admitted for reasons other than the virus, with many discovering they were infected when tested at the hospital.

The county reported 3,180 new infections on Friday, bringing the overall total for the entire pandemic to 2,929,950. Ten more virus-related deaths — all over 50 and six with pre-existing conditions — were also reported, bringing the cumulative local death toll to 32,074.

The average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus rose to 3.7%, up from 3.5% the day before.

Los Angeles County does not report coronavirus data on weekends.

Expiring measures remain

With the number of cases of this ailment steadily increasing, it was enough to bring the county to the “medium” virus risk level; That’s why health officials have extended the mask requirement on public transportation and at transportation hubs.

The health order was issued in late April and requires face masks in transit vehicles and in hubs such as airports and train stations. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (DPH) announced Friday that the mandate has been extended for another 30 days or until the county sees a sharp drop in virus transmission, whichever comes first.

Masks were previously required nationwide on public transportation and in transportation facilities, but a federal judge struck down the requirement last month. Initially, the county followed the ruling and the mandate was removed locally, but when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) chose to appeal the ruling, the county issued a new health order reinstating the requirement locally.

It affects people on trains, subways, buses, taxis, shared transport vehicles and in bus terminals, metro stations and inside port terminals. It also affects airports, but does not extend to airplanes, which are under federal jurisdiction.

The change came as the cumulative weekly rate of new Covid-19 cases in the county surpassed 200 per 100,000 population, rising to 202 per 100,000.

The move to the “medium” category did not trigger any immediate changes in health regulations in the county, which already maintained heightened precautionary recommendations that align with CDC guidelines in the “medium” classification.

These include requiring masks on public transportation and in high-risk settings such as hospitals and homeless shelters, and maintaining wide availability of vaccines and access to testing, including at-home testing.

The county does not yet require the use of face coverings in all indoor public places, but it is strongly encouraged.

The number of positive patients for Covid-19 has increased in recent weeks, with the percentage of emergency room visits associated with the virus rising as much as 5% over the past week, up from 4% the week before.

Under 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 residents, or if 10% of hospital beds with county staff are occupied by Covid-19 patients.

DPH Director Barbara Ferrer said Thursday that the current rate of new admissions related to the pandemic in the county is 3.4 per 100,000 residents, and the rate of hospital beds occupied by patients positive for the virus is approximately 1.7%.

Ferrer explained that he is “hopeful” that the county avoids falling into the “high” community level of covid-19, but only if residents and businesses do not “shy away” from safety practices “that are known to reduce transmission”, like wearing face coverings indoors and making sure people are up to date on vaccinations.

“We know what works: face coverings, testing and vaccination, along with systems and policies that support the use of these and other effective safety measures,” he said in a statement Friday.

“If each of us takes advantage of good access to these effective resources, I am hopeful that we can reduce transmission again, avoid strain on our health care system, and protect each other.”