Another 549 COVID-19 infections were reported in Los Angeles County Friday, the largest number since April and the second straight day the figure has topped 500, prompting more calls for residents to get vaccinated and exercise caution over the Fourth of July weekend.
The rolling average rate of people testing positive for the virus also continued inching upward in the county, although the figure still remains very low at just 1.3%. That's up from 1.2% on Thursday, but is more than four times the 0.03% rate reported by the county in early June.
Hospitalizations due to COVID-19 dipped slightly on Friday, with state figures showing 275 virus patients in the county, down from 280 on Thursday. There were 72 patients in intensive care due to COVID-19, down from 74 on Thursday.
“Whenever we see a doubling of cases and a quadrupling of test positivity over a short period of time, we are reminded of how easily the virus can spread,” county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement. “The three vaccines we have in the U.S. provide powerful protection against serious illness, and death from all the variants, and the commonly circulating virus.”
“While the most important thing is to get vaccinated, it is sensible when you go indoors to a place, and you don't know everyone's vaccination status, to put on a face covering to maximize protection for everyone. If you are not fully vaccinated, you must wear your mask in all indoor public settings,” she said.
Los Angeles County reported five more COVID-19 deaths on Friday, raising the countywide death toll from the virus to 24,492. The 549 new infections lifted the cumulative county total to 1,251,224 since the pandemic began.
Health officials have been closely watching case numbers and testing-positivity rates, which have been steadily inching upward since most COVID-19 health restrictions were lifted on June 15. The increases come as a highly contagious “Delta” variant of the COVID-19 virus continues spreading locally and nationally. The variant is believed to be responsible for more than 26% of current COVID-19 infections in the United States.
The “Delta” variant is also blamed for rampant infections in India and parts of the United Kingdom.
Ferrer said Thursday, 245 cases of the “Delta” variant have been confirmed in the county, nearly double the number from last week. The county conducts limited sequencing tests needed to identify the variants, so the number cannot be extrapolated across the population, but “Delta” has become the most dominant variant detected in the county.
Given the increasing prevalence of “Delta” among identified virus variants in the county, Ferrer said, it's clear there is “increasing circulation” of the variant in the community.
She again stressed that existing vaccines provide strong protection against the “Delta” variant, but so-called “breakthrough” infections of people who are fully vaccinated do happen. And those people -- while at low risk of becoming seriously ill -- could potentially spread the infection to others, Ferrer said.
According to figures released Thursday, of the roughly 4.5 million county residents who are fully vaccinated, there have been 2,190 documented “breakthrough” infections, for an infection rate of 0.048%. A total of 192 fully vaccinated people have been hospitalized with COVID-19, at a rate of 0.0042%, and 20 have died, a rate of 0.0004%.
Ferrer insisted the numbers prove that vaccines are extremely effective in fighting the virus. But she said even at extremely low infection rates, there have still been more than 2,000 people who were vaccinated but contracted the virus.
It was not known how many of those breakthrough cases documented in the county involved the “Delta” variant. Ferrer noted that last week, when the county had identified 123 “Delta” variant cases, only 10 of them involved fully vaccinated people.
More than 10.4 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in the county. The latest numbers show that 59% of residents age 16 or older are fully vaccinated, while 68% have received at least one dose.
The numbers are higher among seniors, with 76% of people 65 and older fully vaccinated, and 87% with at least one dose.
In hopes of encouraging more people to get vaccinated, the county is continuing to offer incentives. Beginning Friday and continuing until next Thursday, anyone who gets vaccinated at sites operated by the county, the city of Los Angeles or St. John's Well Child and Family Center will be entered for a chance to win one of four ticket packages for the Huntington Library, Descanso Gardens, Los Angeles County Arboretum and South Coast Botanic Garden. The packages include an annual membership to the Huntington and one-day passes to the other facilities.
In Orange County, health officials on Friday confirmed another 74 COVID-19 infections on Friday, lifting the cumulative total to 256,445. One more death was also reported, raising the county's death toll to 5,123.
The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Orange County fell from 70 on Thursday to 63 on Friday, with 12 of those patients in the ICU.