The number of COVID-positive patients in Los Angeles County hospitals continued its gradual decline Saturday, dropping by nine people to 446, according to the latest state figures.
The number of those patients in intensive care was 58, up three from Friday's total.
Those numbers come one day after local health officials reported 15 more deaths linked to the virus and 1,329 new infections, lifting the county's cumulative totals to 33,811 fatalities and 3,470,848 cases since the pandemic began.
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The official number of cases reported each day is believed to be an undercount of actual virus activity in the county, due to the prevalent use of at-home tests that are not always reported to the county, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
County officials have said that roughly 40% of the COVID-positive hospital patients were admitted specifically for COVID, while the others were hospitalized for other reasons but tested positive upon admission.
The seven-day average rate of people testing positive for the virus was 3.9% as of Friday.
County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer noted Thursday that the past two winters have seen significant surges in infections, with more people spending time indoors and mingling in areas with reduced ventilation. Last winter's surge, however, was notably different because the spike in infections did not lead to overwhelming numbers of people being hospitalized -- the result of widespread vaccinations and immunity from previous infections.
But with new variants constantly arising and vaccine protection waning over time, there is always the fear that another surge could again threaten hospital capacity.
She again urged residents to receive the most recent COVID booster shot, which is specifically engineered against currently circulating strains of the virus.
If enough people get booster shots, she said, "we could avoid what happened the last two winters, which is a real strain on our health care system.''