With increases across multiple COVID metrics, including cases, hospitalizations, outbreaks in high-risk settings, and the test positivity rate, layering in more protections is needed to reduce the risk of transmission and severe illness, according to the Los Angeles County Health Department.
Evidence continues to show, officials say, that those fully vaccinated and recently boosted have increased protection that is important during times of high transmission.
Over the past seven days, dating back to May 17, there were 22 new outbreaks at skilled nursing facilities, which elevated the level of concern at these facilities to “high.”
Nursing facilities are now required to implement additional safety measures including: universal masking of all staff, visitors, and residents; N95 respirators for all staff at all times in a facility; twice weekly screening testing of staff, and weekly testing of residents; testing of all visitors; and, pausing communal dining and non-essential group activities.
Efforts continue to ensure that staff and residents are up-to-date on their vaccinations.
There are also increases in outbreaks among people experiencing homelessness, with 13 new outbreaks reported for the week ending May 22. The rise in outbreaks among people experiencing homelessness has led to increased testing and referrals to quarantine and isolation sites. Mobile teams are focused on ensuring easy access to vaccinations and boosters for those that are not housed.
Omicron, which is known to be 20-30% more easily transmitted than previous strains, accounted for 100% of all positive cases for sequenced specimens collected in the week ending April 30. While the BA.2 Omicron variant remains the predominant variant in LA County, BA.2.12.1, is becoming more common in LA County, which is of concern since it is more transmissible that BA.2.
The BA.2.12.1 sub-lineage accounted for 27% of positive sequenced specimens for the period ending April 30, compared to 3% about one month before. This rate of increase is similar to what is seen nationally, where for the week ending May 14, BA.2.12.1 accounted for 48% of positive sequences specimens vs. 19% about one month before. For the week ending April 30, the BA.2.3 and its sub-lineages accounted for 12% of positive sequenced specimens.
With these highly infectious subvariants and sub-lineages in circulation, cases continue to increase in LA County. The average number of daily new cases reported over the last seven days increased to 3,843 compared to the 1,436 reported one month ago, an increase of 168%.
The seven-day average test positivity rate also increased when compared to one month ago. The rate today is 3%, double from what it was one month ago on April 23 when the seven-day average test positivity rate was 1.5%.
Deaths, which typically lag hospitalizations by several weeks, remain stable at an average of seven deaths reported per day this past week.
Vaccines continue to provide the best defense against COVID and there is ample evidence supporting the need for all vaccinated individuals to get a booster dose 5 months after completing their initial series to maintain maximum protection, officials said. Currently, there are about 2.9 million booster-dose eligible residents age 12 and older not benefiting from the extra protection of a booster dose.
“We are thinking of everyone across our communities who has lost a loved one or friend to COVID-19, and we wish you healing and peace,” said Barbara Ferrer, PhD, MPH, MEd, director of Public Health.
“The numbers in LA County are increasing across nearly all of our metrics reflecting the reality of the dominance of highly infectious mutated variants. To protect those who are most vulnerable, we need to take care of each other by creating barriers to the transmission of the virus; this happens when we are up-to-date on vaccinations and boosters, wear a mask when indoors and around others, and get tested to know our status if we feel sick, have been exposed, or are gathering indoors.
“None of this is particularly hard and these actions protect the elderly, those with underlying health conditions, and those with many potential exposures at their worksites or in the community,” Ferrer said.
Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved booster doses for children ages 5-11. With cases increasing by 264% this past month among children ages 5-11 (a higher rate of increase than the corresponding 116% increase among young adults ages 18-49), the 130,000 children ages 5-11 immediately eligible for the booster are encouraged to take advantage of the additional protection offered by the third dose of the pediatric Pfizer vaccine.
There are more than 2,000 sites in LA County where residents can get boosters, including pharmacies, Public Health pods, mobile and school vaccination clinics, and more. Residents can find vaccination sites near their home or work by visiting VaccinateLACounty.com or by calling the Public Health Call Center at (833) 540-0473 (open 7 days a week, 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.).