Los Angeles County reported 66 deaths associated with the coronavirus on Saturday -- the most COVID-related fatalities reported in one day since April 2 of last year.
The majority of deaths reported this week occurred in people who became infected after Dec. 20, when the Omicron variant was circulating widely, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
The county also reported 41,765 new cases of COVID-19, and said "the extraordinarily high number of new cases reflects worrisome rates of community transmission."
The number of COVID patients in Los Angeles County hospitals increased to 4,386, up from 4,257 on Friday. The number of those patients in intensive care rose to 602, up two from Friday's total.
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Many coronavirus patients entered the hospital for other reasons and only discovered they had COVID after a mandated test, but the surging numbers are putting a strain on hospitals nonetheless, with many nurses and other staffers unavailable themselves due to the pandemic.
As of Friday, more than 80% of all adult ICU beds in the county were occupied.
Overall, COVID patient numbers are still well below those seen last winter, when the number topped 8,000.
Health officials are urging residents to avoid going to emergency rooms unless absolutely necessary, and not go to the ER to get tested for COVID.
"As deaths often lag behind surges in cases and hospitalizations, sadly, the increase in deaths does not come as a surprise and tragically, we are prepared for even higher number of deaths in the coming weeks," county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Saturday. "With unvaccinated individuals 22 times more likely to die from COVID-19 compared to those fully vaccinated, residents should not delay getting vaccinated and boosted as these measures are saving lives."
Ferrer has also urged residents to avoid dangerous activities in the coming weeks, particularly those that are indoors and involve mingling with unvaccinated or higher-risk people. She also stressed that while the Omicron variant is easily capable of infecting vaccinated people, the shots are still proving to be effective in preventing infected people from winding up hospitalized.
She called on residents to get vaccinated and obtain booster shots; wear upgraded masks such as N95, KN95 or KF94 varieties; and get tested, saying the county dramatically expanded testing availability after shortages two weeks ago that led to long lines at some test centers.
The rolling average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus was 17.9% on Saturday.
Los Angeles County has logged 2,213,664 cases of COVID-19 and 28,008 deaths associated with the virus since the pandemic began.