Los Angeles County’s 43,712 new Covid infections today is the highest daily total of the entire pandemic, breaking a record set just 24 hours before, when 37,215 new cases were announced. Thursday’s number had, in turn, skyrocketed up over 10,000 cases from 26,754 the day before.
On Tuesday, the county recorded 21,790 new daily cases. That means in the four days from Tuesday to Friday of this week, new infections in the county more than doubled. And the starting point — Tuesday’s 21,790 — was at that point a near record.
Driving the rise is widespread infection. The county’s 7-day rolling average of people testing positive was 20.9% as of Friday. That’s up from 11.4% just two weeks before. Even that near-record test-positivity rate may be artificially low, according to county health officials, due to the number of people who use take-home tests and don’t report the results.
Along with the increased case numbers has came the anticipated rise in hospitalizations, with state figures showing 2,902 Covid-positive patients in L.A. hospitals as of Friday. That was up from 2,661 on Thursday. Of the hospitalized patients, 391 were being treated in intensive care units, up from 352 a day earlier.
While still well short of the peak hospitalization numbers seen last winter — when more than 8,000 COVID-positive patients filled hospitals — the rising number is still generating concern. The state’s composite forecast predicted record numbers of hospitalizations in California by early February.
What’s more, health care facilities are finding themselves increasingly short-staffed, in part because of Covid infections among health care workers.
According to the county Department of Public Health, 973 infections among health care workers were reported over the past week, a jump of 47% from the prior period. That rise comes despite the relatively high rate of health care workers who’ve been vaccinated — showing the power of the Omicron variant of the virus to infect even vaccinated residents, although they are less likely to become severely ill.
The state is requiring all health care workers in the state to receive a booster dose of vaccine by February 1. Those who do not receive the booster must be tested twice weekly.
“Vaccinated individuals are between 10 and 30 times less likely to need hospital care than those unvaccinated,” said county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer this week. Of the county’s overall population of 10.3 million people, 67% are fully vaccinated.
Surging infection numbers prompted the county this week to amend its public health order, requiring employers to provide upgraded masks to employees who work indoors in close contact with others.
The revised order also amended the definition of outdoor “mega events,” where masking is required, to 5,000 or more attendees; and the definition of indoor “mega” events to 500 or more people. The numbers align with those in the state’s health order. The county’s order also “recommends” that food and drink be consumed only in designated dining areas.
The upgraded mask requirement for county workplaces mirrors an order released late last week by the county for K-12 schools, requiring teachers and staff to wear higher-grade face coverings. USC announced this week it will require all students and staff to wear higher-grade masks when in-person classes resume.
Twenty-eight new fatalities reported Friday lifted the county’s overall death toll to 43,712 since the pandemic began.
City News Service contributed to this report.
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