Amid rising transmission and elevated hospitalization numbers, LA County's health director is urging caution against the spread of COVID-19 over the Fourth of July weekend, when many people are likely to attend parties or large gatherings.
"Given the rising number of COVID cases and hospitalizations, and the increased circulation of the more infectious BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants, it is extra important to take steps that reduce the risk of transmission especially over the long holiday weekend," Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement. "This helps us protect ourselves, our families, and our community."
"Please be sure to remind friends and family to stay home and skip the celebration if they feel sick or have tested positive," she said. "It is also a great idea for everyone to test themselves before getting together, ideally on the day of the gathering. It is always best to celebrate outdoors, and if people come indoors for part of the gathering, wearing a mask is advisable, particularly if there are individuals at high risk of severe illness should they become infected."
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On Thursday, Ferrer reported a sudden uptick in the pace of COVID-positive people being hospitalized in the county, with the average daily rate reaching 8.1 per 100,000 residents, up from 6.6 earlier this week.
If the county reaches 10 new daily admissions per 100,000 residents, it will move into the "high" virus activity category as defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If the county stays in the "high" category for two consecutive weeks, it will reimpose a mandatory indoor mask-wearing mandate.
At the current rate of increase, the county will hit the "high" category by July 19, Ferrer said. That projection has changed repeatedly in the past few weeks as the admission rate has fluctuated, and Ferrer said it could shift again.
The number of COVID-positive patients in county hospitals increase by 19 people to 810, according to the latest state figures released Saturday. The number of those patients being treated in intensive care was 91, up from 82 a day earlier.
The county reported another 7,324 new COVID-19 cases Friday, raising the overall total since the pandemic began to 3,125,299. Another 10 virus-related deaths were also reported, giving the county a cumulative death toll of32,344.
The average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus was 13.8% as of Friday.
The county does not report COVID data on weekends.
Ferrer on Thursday noted an uptick in infections related to workplaces, and urged employers to implement infection-control measures in indoor spaces, such as masking and maintaining physical distancing in communal areas. She said one sector in particular -- the TV and film industry -- has already re-imposed an indoor mask mandate now that the county's hospitalization rate has reached more than 8 per 100,000 residents.
She said that given the continued high level of virus transmission in the county -- particularly with more rapid spread of the highly transmissible BA.4 and BA.5 variants -- people should already be masking up indoors.
Because masks are not mandatory, "people are not, I think, heeding our request that people do put those masks back on indoors right now."
She said the evidence is "crystal clear" that masking, particularly with a higher-grade N95 or KN95 mask, works to prevent spread of the virus.