The same attributes that helped the Omicron variant of Covid-19 drive a historic rise in cases and then hospitalizations earlier this month in Los Angeles now seem to be precipitating a noticeable decline in those same numbers.
On January 9, Los Angeles County hit an all-time peak daily new case record at over 43,000. That was up 100% in just four days thanks to an average 7-day test positivity rate of 20.4%, which was just about the highest it’s ever been in the region. Put another way, one in five Angelenos was testing positive.
L.A. Public Health officials reported 18,822 new cases today. That’s a 56% drop in a little over two weeks. While it’s not quite as meteoric as the 100% rise in cases in the run up to 43,000, it’s still a remarkable drop, given the presence of a variant that’s considered 2-4 times more transmissible than Delta.
Over roughly the same time period, the daily rate of cases per 100,000 residents also decreased by 20% and the daily test positivity rate decreased by roughly one-third, to 13.8% today.
Additionally, the number of residents getting seriously ill and needing hospitalization has also finally begun to decline in the past few days. Throughout the pandemic, changes in Covid-related hospitalizations have lagged cases by 2-3 weeks. The drop hospitalizations that began last week happened less than two weeks after the peak in cases, lending credence to the idea that Omicron not only develops faster than previous strains, it also cycles through the infected host more quickly.
“It looks to us that folks may be progressing faster — folks who have omicron — so we’re seeing a much shorter timeframe,” said L.A. Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer recently, before adding, “It looks like they get hit pretty hard earlier on.”
The number of people hospitalized peaked on January 20th at 4,814 and has slowly declined since, with 4,554 people currently hospitalized. While this decline is small and just beginning, it’s ahead of the previously expected 2-3 week lag between changes in cases and changes in hospitalizations. A two-week window would have had the hospitalizations begin to drop on January 23.
Deaths are the final lagging indicator, after cases and hospitalizations. Over the past two weeks, deaths have increased from 15 deaths reported on January 11th to 36 deaths reported today, a count which could be low due to delays in reporting over the weekend. The county last Thursday recorded the highest number of lives lost since March of 2021, with 102 fatalities.
L.A. County officials expect the number of Covid-infected people dying will continue to increase for the next several weeks.
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