Los Angeles County reported nearly 7,000 new COVID-19 infections over the weekend along with 39 more virus-related deaths in its latest data.
The provincial public health department recorded 3,257 infections on Saturday, 1,932 on Sunday, 1,137 on Monday, and 668 on Tuesday. The new cases gave the county an official total from across the pandemic of 3,622,250.
The daily official case numbers are believed to be lower than the number of actual infections, since many people rely on at-home tests without reporting results, and many others are not tested at all.
The 39 new deaths reported in the four-day period brought the cumulative number of deaths in the county to 34,599.
The seven-day average daily rate for people who tested positive for the virus was 14.5% through Tuesday, up from 11.3% a week earlier.
Updated numbers regarding hospitalizations related to the virus were not immediately available. As of Saturday, there were 1,220 patients with COVID in Los Angeles County hospitals, and 153 of them are being treated in intensive care units.
Health officials have estimated that approximately 40% of patients infected with the virus have been admitted for actual COVID-related illnesses, while others have been hospitalized for other reasons, knowing only that they were infected upon admission.
Although case numbers have declined in recent weeks, county health officials warned last week that “death rates continue to rise in L.A. County, especially among seniors.”
County officials noted that the 39 new deaths reported on Tuesday were likely an undercount due to a delay in reporting from the weekend.
“Public health officials are concerned that travel and gathering during the holidays will lead to increased disease transmission and severe disease, which could put even more strain on the county’s hospitals and health care system,” health officials said in a statement on Friday.
County officials urged residents to exercise caution during the holiday season and to “layer” protection to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
“To help protect the elderly and people who are immunocompromised or have underlying health conditions in your household, at your jobs, and in the community, Los Angeles County residents should continue to mask indoors and follow other health measures,” per the health department.
Last Thursday, County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said the county averaged about 2,600 new COVID infections per day over the past week, down nearly 12% from 3,000 per day in the previous week. Despite the decline, she stressed that “transmission remains high” in the province, noting again that official case numbers are undercounted.
Last week, the county moved from the “high” COVID activity category to the “moderate” category, as defined by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The move had no effect on public health restrictions, though it did reduce the possibility of the county re-imposing a mask-wearing mandate in enclosed spaces, which Ferrer previously said could be done if case rates and hospitalization numbers continue to increase.
However, Ferrer warned on Thursday that given the persistence of high transmissions, “if the case rate increases a little bit, we will go back to a ‘high’ state.”
“LA County will likely continue to move back and forth between ‘medium’ and ‘high’ over the next few weeks,” she said.
Wearing a mask is still “strongly recommended” by the county in indoor public spaces, but Ferrer said that even without a mandate, residents should start wearing it, given the high rate of transmission.
Masks are still required indoors in healthcare and congregate care facilities, for anyone exposed to the virus in the past 10 days, and in businesses where the owner requires them.