With COVID-19 infections continuing to spread thanks to the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus, Los Angeles County Tuesday reported another slight uptick in cases at skilled nursing facilities, despite high rates of vaccinations among residents and staff.
For the week that ended July 18, the county documented 33 new cases at nursing facilities — six among residents and 27 staff members. That's up from a previous weekly average of 22 total new cases.
Skilled nursing facility staff and residents were among the first to be eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations. County officials said 86% of residents and 85% of staff are fully vaccinated. Masking and routine virus testing are also required.
County officials attributed the rise in cases to the Delta variant, and a "small number" of so-called breakthrough infections of vaccinated people.
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"Residents at skilled nursing facilities are often medically fragile and throughout this pandemic have been at great risk for serious illness and death from COVID-19," county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement. "Thankfully, because of their high COVID-19 vaccination rates and infection control measures at facilities, we are not seeing dramatic increases in COVID-19 cases among staff and residents at skilled nursing facilities, nor have we seen significant increases in deaths.
"In order to ensure a continued high level of protection during this surge, staff and residents not yet vaccinated should do so. And we ask everyone who plans to visit someone in a skilled nursing facility to mask up and be fully vaccinated to prevent transmission to very vulnerable residents."
The county reported another 2,293 COVID-19 infections on Tuesday, raising the cumulative number from throughout the pandemic to 1,307,970. Another 20 fatalities were also reported, giving the county an overall death toll of 24,704.
The rolling average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus was 6.6% as of Tuesday, up from 6.2% on Monday. The average was 1.3% on July 2.
County health officials continued to urge vaccinations as the best defense against COVID-19 infections, which are disproportionately affecting the unvaccinated and landing them in hospitals.
According to state figures, there were 1,242 people hospitalized in the county due to COVID as of Wednesday morning, with 269 people in intensive care. County officials noted that one month ago, on July 2, there were only 280 people hospitalized due to COVID-19.
Ferrer said last week that of all the people who were hospitalized in the county due to COVID-19 in June, 92% were either unvaccinated entirely or not fully vaccinated. The figure was 95% in May. For the first 10 days of July — the most recent statistic available — the rate was 91%.
Ferrer also said 99.8% of the COVID fatalities in the county during the first six month of the year occurred among the unvaccinated. The rate was 96% from April 1 to June 30, a period during which vaccines were more widely available.
While the pace of vaccinations has slowed significantly since earlier this year, Ferrer said the county has now seen two consecutive weeks of small increases in the number of people receiving a first dose. Between July 19 and 25, about 70,000 doses were administered in the county, up about 7,500 from the previous week.
Of the county's 10.3 million residents, 60% have received at least one dose, and 52% are fully vaccinated. Roughly 1.3 million residents under age 12 remain ineligible for the vaccine.
Among residents aged 16 and over, 72% have received at least one dose, and 63% are fully vaccinated, according to the most recent county figures. The rates are significantly higher among older residents, with 89% of county residents aged 65 and over with at least one dose, and 79% fully vaccinated.
There are 772 county sites offering vaccinations this week, including pharmacies, clinics, community sites and hospitals and 312 sites where mobile teams are offering vaccinations, which are concentrated in higher-need, harder hit areas.
Statewide cases also are increasing, largely among unvaccinated populations, health officials said. The vast majority of new cases in California are among the unvaccinated, with 600% higher case rates among the unvaccinated than for those who are vaccinated.