With the bulk of new Covid-19 infections occurring among the unvaccinated, the pace of Los Angeles County residents being hospitalized due to the virus has begun rising at an equivalent rate of new cases, while the rate of people dying is also creeping higher, according to figures released today.
“For the past few weeks I’ve been sharing with you that cases have been increasing at twice or more the rate of hospitalizations,” said Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer. “However, comparing Aug. 4 with July 4, we see cases and hospitalizations rising at similar rates.”
During that time period, infections rose by 387%, while hospitalizations rose by 366%, she said.
“This alarming increase in the rise of hospitalizations serves as a stark reminder that this virus causes debilitating and dangerous illness among many who are infected,” Ferrer said.
She said roughly 8% of people who become infected with the virus are now requiring hospitalization, the vast majority of them unvaccinated.
Meanwhile, the 7-day average number of deaths has risen to seven, compared to between four and five a month ago.
Ferrer said there has been a 240% increase in hospitalizations over the past month among unvaccinated people aged 50 or over, and a 237% rise in hospitalizations for unvaccinated younger residents.
During the month of July, vaccinated residents represented just 13% of people hospitalized with the virus. While that’s still a small portion of the total, it’s up from 10% shortly before that. One reason: breakthrough infections among the vaccinated. Another reason, according to Ferrer, is that the proportion of those vaccinated is becoming a larger and larger share of the total population, so there is a greater pool of vaccinated people to be infected.
She noted that of the 5.1 million vaccinated people in the county as of Aug. 10, 21,532 have tested positive for COVID-19, for a rate of 0.42%. A total of 549 fully vaccinated people have been hospitalized, for a rate of 0.01%, and 55 have died, for a rate of 0.0011%. The rates of vaccinated people who have been hospitalized and died were both up slightly from last week.
“These small increases provide proof that fully vaccinated people are becoming infected and that with these very high rates of community transmission, more fully vaccinated people are getting post-vaccination infections,” Ferrer said. “However, this data should also provide significant reassurance that fully vaccinated people remain at relatively low risk of becoming infected, still below 1%, and even lower risk for having a bad outcome if they are infected.”
She added, “Trendlines like these are why we feel so certain the vaccines are doing exactly what they’re supposed to be doing here in L.A. County. Vaccinated people are exceptionally well protected from hospitalization. Although we have seen cases rise among vaccinated people and hospitalizations rise, it is hard to even draw a comparison between the experience they have with Covid and the severe illness the infection continues to cause among those unvaccinated.”
Ferrer also said that while hospitalizations were increasing rapidly, she did not expect to see hospitals at the breaking point as they were in the winter surge.
Her comments came on a day the county actually saw a slight dip in the number of overall hospitalized Covid patients. According to state figures, there were 1,645 COVID patients in county hospitals, down from 1,648 on Wednesday. There were 361 people in intensive care, up one from Wednesday.
The county reported another 23 deaths due to COVID-19 on Thursday, lifting the county’s death toll to 24,854. Another 3,865 cases were reported, giving the county a cumulative total from throughout the pandemic of 1,339,138.
The rolling average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus was 4.5% as of Thursday, down slightly from 4.7% a week ago.
As of Aug. 8, 63% of the county’s eligible residents aged 12 and over are fully vaccinated. Among the county’s overall population of roughly 10.3 million people — including more than 1 million people ineligible for shots because they’re under age 12 — 54% are fully vaccinated.
Ferrer said statistics show that unvaccinated people are 3.6 times more likely to become infected with COVID than vaccinated people.
City News Service contributed to this report.