LOS ANGELES, CA – Coronavirus cases have doubled in Los Angeles County over the past month. throwing the region back into the familiar cycle of cases plunging and rising again as restrictions come and go.
The spike in cases comes as the county confirmed its first case of the new Omicron BA.4 subvariant, which is linked to an increase in cases in South Africa with the BA.5 subvariant. The new variant is known to cause reinfections in people who have recovered from the original Omicron variant.
BA.4 and BA.5 have “mutations in the lineages that allow the virus to evade immunity,” Tulio de Oliveira, director of the institutes at the universities of KwaZulu-Natal and Stellenbosch, told Bloomberg. “We expect it could cause reinfections and it could cross some vaccines because that is the only way anything can develop in South Africa, where we estimate that over 90% of the population has a level of immune protection.”
Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Wednesday that local health officials are monitoring the spread of BA.4. She urged residents to take precautions such as wearing masks in crowds even though it’s not mandatory.
Ferrer said she sympathized with people tired of calls for mask-wearing and caution against the spread of COVID-19, but with the number of cases still rising and new variants emerging, she said it would be an “error” to abandon all precautions.
“I know that almost everyone is tired of the pandemic, tired of wearing masks and exhausted from trying to deal with uncertainty and ever-changing directions,” Barbara Ferrer told reporters during a briefing. online Wednesday. “And it’s very tempting to downplay the impact of the virus to support our desire to return to our pre-pandemic lives.
“Unfortunately, I think that would be a mistake that would make it harder for us to adopt strategies that extend protections while minimizing disruption. There are always sensible steps we can take to reduce risk and prevent disease. serious and the death of the most vulnerable people.”
She also again urged people to get their shots and boosters, and to stay home if they feel sick.
Ferrer reported another 2,484 COVID cases on Wednesday, reiterating that the average daily number of new infections in the county has increased 200% over the past month. The new cases brought the county’s cumulative total throughout the pandemic to 2,882,279.
The recent increase in cases has yet to translate into increased hospitalizations and deaths. According to state figures, there were 248 COVID-positive patients in county hospitals on Wednesday, up from 236 on Tuesday. Of these patients, 27 were being treated in intensive care, up from 22 a day earlier.
Ferrer reported five more COVID deaths on Wednesday, bringing the virus-related death toll to 31,982.
On Wednesday, the average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus was 2.2%, up slightly from previous days but still low overall. The seven-day average daily rate of new cases in the county was 21 per 100,000 population, down from 17 per 100,000 a week ago.
She noted that the BA.2 variant of COVID-19 and its offshoots now account for 96% of all local COVID infections that have undergone special testing to identify the variants. BA.2 is a sub-variant of the Omicron strain of the virus which caused a sharp increase in cases during the winter months. The county, however, is already seeing a growing number of cases identified as BA.2.12.1, which is an offshoot of BA.2. That offshoot now accounts for 8% of the county’s tested cases, she said.
Ferrer recalled that while indoor mask mandates have been lifted in most settings, face coverings are still needed in healthcare facilities, homeless shelters, skilled nursing facilities, at on board public transport vehicles and at transport hubs such as airports.
She acknowledged that enforcing the masking rule at airports is a challenge, though she noted that inspectors who recently visited Los Angeles International Airport found that most employees complied with the rule.
“I think it’s harder for disembarking passengers to understand LA County rules,” she said. “I have a lot of confidence that as the messaging continues people will be more comfortable with the fact that they have to put their masks on once they are in terminal areas.”
city news service