Los Angeles County reported 3,031 new cases of COVID-19 and eight additional deaths Sunday, with officials noting that the case numbers and deaths may reflect delays in weekend reporting.
Meanwhile, the recent surge in local hospitalizations due to the coronavirus slowed down Sunday, increasing by just four patients to 1,437, with 333 of those people in intensive care -- also an increase of four from Saturday, according to state data.
Sunday's numbers brought the county's totals to 1,326,361 cases and 24,777 fatalities since the pandemic began, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
On Saturday, the department reported 4,283 new cases of COVID-19 -- the highest number of cases reported in one day in more than six months. In a bit of good news, however, Saturday's test positivity rate was 4.7%, down from 5.3% Friday and previous week's rate of 6.3%.
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Routine testing programs are increasing at businesses and schools, and there will be quicker identification of asymptomatic people infected with COVID-19, according to county health officials. Staff will contact all people testing positive to ensure they are isolating for 10 days and identifying all their close contacts who will be notified of the need to quarantine, the department said.
The sharp rise in infections over the past two months has been attributed to the highly infectious delta variant of the virus that was first discovered in India.
“With increased testing, our case numbers are likely to rise until we significantly reduce community transmission,” Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said. “While indoor masking and quarantine and isolation of cases and close contacts are effective strategies for reducing transmission, the quickest way to slow the spread is to increase vaccination coverage. Today, as I worked with our team at the Obregon Park vaccination clinic, I was encouraged to see so many teens coming in to get vaccinated. All these newly vaccinated teens contribute to the safe re-opening of schools and get us closer to community immunity.”
Ferrer said Thursday that the rate of daily new infections and the testing-positivity rate were both down noticeably from the previous 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.
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, 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.