Blaming the highly infectious "Delta" variant of the coronavirus and increases in people mingling in public, Los Angeles County health officials reported more than 2,500 new COVID-19 infections in their latest update -- the largest daily number since mid-February.
The 2,551 infections reported Wednesday marked the 13th consecutive day the number has topped 1,000. It brought the county's cumulative number of cases from throughout the pandemic to 1,273,390.
The number of people hospitalized due to the virus continued rising as well, jumping from 585 on Tuesday to 645 on Wednesday, according to state figures. The number of people in intensive care rose to 140, up from 134 on Tuesday. One month ago, on June 21, the county reported just 213 people hospitalized due to COVID-19.
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Also continuing to rise was the rolling average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus. As of Wednesday, the average was 5.2%, up from 4.8% on Tuesday. The rate one month ago was 0.7%.
So far, the only major COVID-19 statistic that has not risen dramatically over the past month is the number of deaths. The county reported only seven new fatalities Wednesday, lifting the overall death toll to 24,594.
Throughout the pandemic, the number of deaths has traditionally risen in the weeks following a spike in hospitalizations.
"Because of the more infectious Delta variant and the intermingling of unmasked individuals where vaccination status is unknown, unfortunately, we are seeing a surge in cases in LA County that looks somewhat similar to last summer," county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement.
"An important difference this summer is that with millions of people vaccinated, we are hopeful we will avoid similar increases in deaths that were experienced last year."
California COVID-19 Vaccinations
The map tracks the number of doses administered by a recipient's county of residence according to the The California Department of Public Health.
Source: The statewide totals for doses administered reflect Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. Otherwise we used data from the California Department of Public Health.
"By adding a mask requirement for everyone indoors, the risk for transmission of the virus will be reduced, and with increases in the number of people getting vaccinated, we should be able to get back to slowing the spread," she added.
"Sensible masking indoors adds a layer of protection to the powerful vaccines. It is important that we work together to drive down transmission so that there will be much less community transmission when schools reopen."
The county implemented a renewed mask-wearing mandate late Saturday, requiring face coverings in all indoor public settings, regardless of vaccination status.
Although health officials have continued to stress the effectiveness of vaccines against COVID-19 and the "Delta" variant, the universal mask mandate is seen as a way to ensure unvaccinated residents abide by the rule. The previous requirement that only unvaccinated people wear masks indoors was enforced solely by the honor system.
The "Delta" variant, first detected in India and blamed for rampant infections in that country, is spreading rapidly in the United States. Gov. Gavin Newsom said Wednesday the variant now represents more than 60% of all COVID-19 samples that undergo variant sequencing in the state.
County health officials have pointed to the variant as the primary cause of rising case numbers, saying it can spread rapidly among unvaccinated residents. As of last week, there were still nearly 4 million residents in the county who were unvaccinated, including about 1.3 million children who are ineligible for the shots.
Black and Latino residents have the lowest vaccination rates among ethnic groups in the county. The rate is even lower among young Black and Latino residents. Of the 2,551 new cases reported Wednesday, 83% were among people under age 50, according to the Department of Public Health.
The most recent figures from the county show that 69% of residents age 16 and over have received at least one dose of vaccine, while 61% are fully vaccinated.
In hopes of encouraging more people to get vaccinated, the county is continuing to offer incentives. Through 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 seven concert ticket packages, with tickets to see the Harlem Globetrotters, Disney on Ice and the Gold Over America Tour with Simone Biles at Staples Center.