Southern California

LA County COVID Hospitalizations Go Up, Meaning Masks Could Come Back

Los Angeles County this week could be downgraded from the federal government's "low'' community risk rating to "medium'' -- meaning if virus-related hospitalizations dramatically spike upward, indoor mask-wearing would again be mandated.

Patrick T. Fallon | AFP | Getty Images

A sharp rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations has Los Angeles public health officials urging people to once again mask up in indoor public places, even if it’s not required.

A lot of people have gotten used to not wearing face coverings when going shopping or to other indoor public places, now that there’s no longer a mask requirement in LA County.

"We sure are going about our business as usual and so it's a bit of a recipe for disaster," said Dr. Jerry Abraham of Kedren Community Health Center.

Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer told the county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday that the cumulative seven-day average rate of new cases is now 185 per 100,000 residents -- above the rate of 176 from last Thursday. If that rate reaches 200 per 100,000 residents, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will shift the county from the "low'' community COVID level to "medium.''

Just May 4, the U.S. surpassed 1 million COVID-19 deaths, according to data compiled by NBC News.

Dr. Abraham said we’re paying a price for being more relaxed about masks.

COVID hospitalizations in LA County are up 29%, week to week, the highest increase since January, and overall cases are up 16%, continuing their steady climb.

"I think it is important that we continue to wear our masks so that we can protect one another," Abraham said.

The LA County health director urges wearing masks if there are any questions about it. Joel Grover reports for the NBC4 News on Thursday, May 12, 2022.

Besides urging people to put their masks back on, health experts say many people aren’t testing themselves properly to see if they’re infected. Providence St. John’s nurse Boaz Hepner says it’s important to wait one to two days after you start to feel symptoms.

"Most people who test right away have a false sense of security thinking, 'oh the test is negative, I don’t have COVID,'" Hepner said. "But what you need to understand when your symptoms start, usually there’s not enough virus to actually detect the COVID right away."

Health experts say many who do catch COVID don’t realize there are effective treatments available at little or no cost. As new sub-variants continue to spread fast, experts say the vaccines that are currently available are becoming less effective, even at preventing serious illness and death— which is why wearing masks continues to be critical.

"We’re all in this together. The better we work together the more we’ll put this behind us," Abraham said.

Experts say the case rate is likely even higher with people testing at home, or catching COVID and not testing at all.


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