L.A. County strongly recommends indoor masking as COVID-19 cases rise


2,249 New Positive Cases and 8 New Deaths Due to COVID-19 in Los Angeles County

One week before the Thanksgiving holiday, Los Angeles County is reporting rising cases of COVID-19, increased circulation of new Omicron strains, and high transmission of other respiratory illnesses including the flu and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV.  Reducing transmission of these viruses is helped by wearing a well-fitting high filtration mask and results in less disruptions and illness, which can protect our healthcare system from becoming overwhelmed.

The COVID-19 case rate is now over 100 new cases per 100,000 individuals– up from 86 cases per 100,000 one week ago. Indoor masking in all indoor public spaces is now highly recommended, in accordance with the LA County COVID Response Plan.  The recommendation covers indoor spaces at schools, retail establishments, entertainment venues, public transit, correctional and detention facilities, and at homeless and emergency shelters. Masking continues to be required for people who have been exposed to COVID during the past 10 days, in healthcare settings and congregate care facilities, and anywhere where it is required by the site. For a more detailed review of masking guidance for LA County, please visit  ph.lacounty.gov/acd/ncorona2019/masks/RulesAndRecommendations/.

Throughout the pandemic there has been mounting evidence that wearing a mask is an effective way to limit the spread of respiratory viruses. With the current case rate of 100 cases per 100,000 individuals, at a 200 person event, the probability that at least one person at the event is infected with COVID-19 is 45-60%. If the case rate continues to increase and reaches 150 cases per 100,000 individuals, this probability jumps to 60-75%.

The county is also seeing increased circulation of newly emerging COVID-19 strains BQ.1 and BQ.1.1. Combined, the two subvariants comprise 26% of sequenced specimens, surpassing the threshold for High Concern in the county’s Early Alert Signals. This is only the second week of tracking these strains as new subvariants of interest in the LA County Early Alert Signals. Last week this indicator was at 17%.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) predicts that, for the week ending November 12, BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 combined will account for about 45% of sequenced specimens nationwide and this prediction is the same for Region 9, which includes California plus Arizona, Hawaii, Nevada, and U.S. territories.

LA County continues to see steep increases in flu positivity, with rates significantly higher than expected for this point during the flu season.  Also, RSV percent positivity is still extremely high, surpassing the peak rates seen over the previous four seasons.

Planning ahead and taking straightforward actions can reduce the risk of transmission at Thanksgiving and holiday gatherings.  Public Health recommends masking and testing when traveling,  testing before l gathering, particularly if gathering with those more vulnerable for serious illness, increasing ventilation by staying outdoors or, if indoors, opening windows and doors and using an air purifying system, and staying home if  sick.

A critical strategy for reducing the risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19 is being up-to-date with COVID vaccines. Residents age 5 years and older are eligible for the new updated Fall COVID-19 booster. This bivalent booster can protect against both the original virus that causes COVID-19 and Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants. These two subvariants are different, but they have the same spike protein, and the new Fall bivalent booster offers protection against both. The bivalent booster is also expected to provide protection against the BQ strains, which are sublineages of BA.5.

Unfortunately, in LA County, uptake of the bivalent booster lags. Of the almost 7.5 million residents age 5 years and older who are eligible for a bivalent booster only about 14%, or 1.02 million have received one. Nearly 86% of these residents, or almost 6.5 million people, have not yet received the bivalent booster

The updated Fall COVID-19 boosters, plus flu vaccines, are readily available at Public Health sites, pharmacies, and other locations across the county. Seniors and residents who can’t easily leave their home can contact Public Health telehealth services at (833) 540-0473, seven days a week, from 8:00 am to 8:30 pm to arrange for at-home COVID-19 Fall booster and primary series vaccinations or transportation to a vaccination center. Insurance is not required, and callers can be assisted in multiple languages. 

Residents can also go to VaccinateLACounty.com to find nearby vaccination sites, request a mobile vaccination team for your worksite or community event, or an in-home visit if you or someone you know is homebound.

The 7-day average case count in the county is 1,556, a nearly 17% increase from one week ago when the 7-day average of 1,326 cases was reported.

Over the past seven days, the average number of daily COVID-positive patients in LA County hospitals increased to 582, a 26% increase from one week prior when the average number of COVID-positive patients per day was 461.

Deaths, which typically lag hospitalizations by several weeks, have increased slightly from an average of 8 deaths reported each day this past week. The week before, an average of 7 deaths were reported daily.

“I send my deepest sympathies and wishes of peace and comfort to the many families who have lost a loved one from COVID-19,” said Barbara Ferrer, PhD, MPH, MEd, Director of Public Health. “In winter, we find ourselves indoors more often – at family holiday gatherings, entertainment events and shopping for gifts – all situations that can increase exposure to COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses like the flu and RSV, especially if not wearing a mask.  With rising rates of transmission, there is an increased probability that you may be exposed to someone with COVID-19 as you gather with friends and family, travel, and shop. We can reduce the risk of disrupting holiday plans and exposing those most vulnerable, including very small children, older adults, and essential workers, to dangerous viruses by being up to date on flu and COVID vaccines, wearing a well-fitting high filtration mask when indoors, staying home and away from others if ill, and testing before gathering and before and after traveling.  While the three viruses currently circulating at elevated levels, COVID-19, flu, and RSV, are not new, this season is the first time all three are circulating at high levels at the same time.  This creates additional risks of overwhelming our health care system, making it difficult for our healthcare workers to meet the high demand for services.  We can each make a difference now by protecting ourselves and those around us.”

Today, Public Health reported 8 additional deaths and 2,249 new positive cases. Of the 8 new deaths reported today, 4 people were between the ages of 65-79, and 4 people were aged 80 years or older.  Of the 8 newly reported deaths, all had underlying health conditions. To date, the total number of deaths in L.A. County is 34,098.

Public Health has reported a total of 3,515,225 positive cases of COVID-19 across all areas of L.A. County. Today’s positivity rate is 6.8%

There are 666 people with COVID-19 currently hospitalized. Testing results are available for more than 12,693,195 individuals, with 24% of people testing positive.

A wide range of data and dashboards on COVID-19 from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health are available on the Public Health website at http://www.publichealth.lacounty.gov