The number of coronavirus patients in Los Angeles County hospitals grew again Saturday, increasing by 50 to 1,433 -- the most since the beginning of March. That number includes 329 people in intensive care, an increase from the 303 reported on Friday, according to state figures.
The latest hospitalization numbers came one day after the county health department reported nearly 4,000 new COVID-19 infections, the highest number since Feb. 6. Officials attributed the large number in part to increased testing being required by businesses and schools.
The 3,930 new cases on Friday brought the county's cumulative total from throughout the pandemic to 1,319,216.
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health also announced another 17 deaths due to the virus, raising the overall death toll to 24,756. Health officials have attributed the sharp rise in infections over the past two months to the a highly infectious Delta variant of the virus that was first discovered in India.
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“The continued increase in cases serves as a stark reminder that responding to the infectious Delta variant requires adjustments if we want to slow the spread,” Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said. “Let's continue to enjoy time spent with our friends and family doing activities that bring us joy -- but let's do so adding back sensible protections. Wear a face mask when indoors and when in very crowded spaces outdoors. Move social gatherings outside and practice distancing when among unvaccinated people.
“If you can't avoid sustained close contact with people you don't know, consider upgrading your mask to a KN95 or respirator,” she said. “And please, if you can get vaccinated, do so now to avoid being part of the surge.”
Friday's rolling average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus was 5.3%, up from 4.7% on Thursday. Ferrer said Thursday that the rate of daily new infections and the testing-positivity rate were both down noticeably from last week, offering some hope that the surge in cases is beginning to level off.
“... While we're still experiencing a significantly high case rate, a little more than two weeks ago at the time of our recent health officer order requiring universal masking indoors, we also noted that our cases had doubled every 10 days,” Ferrer said. “What we're seeing now is a much smaller increase in our cases over a couple of weeks, which is what we're hoping for 10 days after implementing an effective public health measure.”
Ferrer said that on Aug. 1, the county had seen a 22% week-over-week increase in new cases -- while the increase in the rest of the state was 57%. That's a sign, she said, that Los Angeles County -- which implemented a mandatory indoor mask-wearing mandate in mid-July -- is now seeing slower transmission of the virus.
Ferrer said it was too early to say if the mask requirement is responsible for the county's improvement, “but I know for sure it contributed.” She also noted that the county has now seen three consecutive weeks of increases in the number of people receiving a first dose of vaccine, following months of declines.
Among county residents age 12 and over, 6.22 million have received at least one dose, and 5.45 million are fully vaccinated. Of the county's overall 10.3 million residents -- including more than a million who aren't eligible for the shots -- 61% have received at least one dose of vaccine, and 53% are fully vaccinated.
Black residents age 12 and up continue to have the lowest rate of vaccinations, at 47%, followed by Latino residents at 56%, white residents at 67% and Asians at 78%.
Residents age 12-15 have the lowest overall vaccination rate at 49%. Black residents aged 12-15 have a vaccination rate of just 26%. As a result, Ferrer said, Black residents are experiencing the highest rate of new COVID infections, at 426 per 100,000 residents during the two- week period that ended July 24. That was a 500% increase from the two-week period ending June 26.
Ferrer again highlighted the danger of the virus to unvaccinated residents, noting that from May 1 to July 17, people who haven't been vaccinated were nearly four times more likely to be infected with COVID than vaccinated residents.
Of the 3,158 people who were hospitalized in the county during that time period, only 8% were fully vaccinated.
Ferrer said that between April 1 and July 18, 95.2% of the people age 16 and older who died from COVID in the county were unvaccinated.
As of Aug. 3, among roughly 5 million fully vaccinated people in the county, 15,628 had tested positive for the virus, for an infection rate of 0.31%. Just 446 were hospitalized, for a rate of 0.009% and 41 had died, a rate of 0.0008%.
Ferrer acknowledged that vaccinated people can get infected with the virus, but they are far less likely to become serious ill or require hospitalization.