Again noting sharp rises in infections among school students and staff and an uptick in COVID-19 outbreaks at skilled nursing facilities, the county's public health director continued to express confidence that with proper precautions, Southland residents can safely enjoy the summer months ahead.
“As we're beginning our summer with a lot of uncertainty regarding the trajectory of the pandemic ... I do remain hopeful, because we all have more knowledge, more experience and more tools than ever before that we can use to protect ourselves and those that are most vulnerable,” Barbara Ferrer said during an online briefing. “By layering in these common-sense safety measures that address the very real risk during times of high transmission, we can feel comfortable doing many of our customary summer activities.”
Ferrer again noted a continuing rise in the pace of COVID-positive patients being admitted to hospitals, but indicated the rate had slowed slightly.
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Last week, she estimated the county was on pace to reach the federal government's “high” virus activity level by the end of the month based on rising admission rates. But this week, the estimate was pushed back to early July, with Ferrer noting a slight decline in the pace of admissions over the past two weeks.
However, the numbers are still rising, and if the county reaches the “high” virus level, the county will re-impose a mandatory indoor mask-wearing mandate.
As of Thursday, the county's rate of new COVID hospital admissions was 6.4 per 100,000 residents, up from 5.2 a week ago. The portion of hospital beds in the county occupied by virus patients was 3.1% as of Thursday, up from 2.7% from a week ago.
The county will move from the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention's “medium" virus-activity category into the “high” category if its average daily rate of new COVID-related hospital admissions rises above 10 per 100,000 residents, or if the percentage of staffed hospital beds occupied by COVID-positive patients tops 10%.
Ferrer on Thursday reported 4,846 new COVID infections, noting that the number does not reflect the actual number new cases in the county. She again noted that many people are now relying on at-home COVID tests, the results of which are not always reported to the county.
“I urge people, if you are testing positive, call your provider, call us, access that treatment opportunity if it's right for you, because it will help keep you out of the hospital,” she said.
Even without people reporting the home tests, the county's average daily number of new COVID cases is still 13% higher than it was a week ago, and 93% higher than a month ago.
The new cases gave the county a cumulative total from throughout the pandemic of 3,019,550. Ferrer also announced seven new COVID-related deaths Thursday, raising the virus-related death toll to 32,193.
According to state figures, there were 595 COVID-positive patients in county hospitals as of Thursday, up sharply from 555 on Wednesday. The number of those patients being treated in intensive care was 68, up four from the previous day. The average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus in the county was 4.7% on Thursday.