Los Angeles County reported 1,064 new cases of COVID-19 and 107 additional deaths Sunday, while the number of coronavirus patients in county hospitals continued to trend downward.
According to state figures -- which are typically a day ahead of county numbers -- there were 1,578 COVID-19 patients in LA County hospitals as of Sunday, down from 1,661 on Saturday and well below the peak of more than 8,000 patients in early January.
Sunday's numbers -- which could reflect an undercount due to a lag in weekend reporting -- brought the county's cumulative totals to 1,191,923 cases and 21,435 deaths.
Despite the dropping numbers, officials cautioned the public to remain vigilant and follow recommended health protocols to keep the momentum going.
"We have been in this position before, on the downside of a surge in cases" County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Saturday. "We must not have a false confidence and must stay committed to the very safety measures that are helping to decrease our cases, hospitalizations and deaths."
Dr. Paul Simon, chief science officer with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, said Friday that the appearance of various variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 is not surprising and should not spark panic.
"This is an RNA virus, and we know that RNA viruses, when they replicate, the genetic material makes lots of mistakes, or mutations," he said. "Most of those mutations are completely insignificant. ... But every once in a while there's one or several mutations that we become more concerned about that seem to potentially at least influence the behavior of the virus. So the virus can become more transmissible or the virus can become more virulent, more likely to cause more severe disease, or of great concern, it might be more resistant to the vaccines.
"So that's a concern, but I don't think at this point there's any need for panic," he said. "I think what we are seeing is that the vaccines that have been authorized ... seem to in some cases be less effective with some of the variants, but nonetheless still seem to be pretty effective."
As of last week, a total of 18 cases of a coronavirus variant first detected in the United Kingdom have been found in Los Angeles County, but there haven't been any cases of a variant found in South Africa. A variant that emerged in California last summer appears to have become dominant in much of the state.
Meanwhile, officials were getting the word out about this week's massive expansion of the COVID-19 vaccination pool. Beginning Monday, doses will be offered to workers in education and child care, food and agriculture, and law enforcement and emergency services, about 1.2 million people in all.
But officials are preaching patience as vaccine supplies remain limited and the increased eligibility is expected to create some logistical hiccups. The public can visit VaccinteLACounty.com for more information or to schedule an appointment.
Although vaccine supplies remain limited, county health officials expressed hope that conditions will improve dramatically with Saturday's federal approval of a single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.