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L.A. County Public Health Warns COVID-19 Community Transmission Increasing at Concerning Levels

Courtesy photo by SJ Objio on Unsplash

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (Public Health) continues to see significant increases in key indicators, including daily new cases and test positivity rates.

Since last week, L.A. County has experienced over 2,000 new cases nearly every day. On Nov. 3, the average number of daily cases was 1,464, and one month before, on Oct. 3, that number of daily cases reported was 988.

Testing results are available for nearly 3,320,000 individuals with 9% of all people testing positive. The county’s test positivity rate, or the percentage of tests that are positive, has increased from an average of about 3.6% on Oct. 3 to about 5.9% as of Thursday.    

“Increasing daily case numbers and increasing test positivity percents are deeply troubling and more evidence of accelerating community transmission,” Public Health said in a statement Thursday after confirming seven new deaths and 2,533 new cases of COVID-19 in the county. 

There are 942 currently hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Friday, up 15% from last Friday, and 28% of these people are in the ICU. On Oct. 3, the average daily number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 was 682 patients, the lowest since the beginning of the pandemic.

Based on experience from the surge seen this summer, Public Health is preparing for an expected increase in hospitalizations and deaths.

On May 28, the county began to experience an increase in cases, which started the steep increase in cases. Twenty-one days later, on June 18, hospitalizations began to increase. Twelve days after that, deaths began to increase. Cases, hospitalizations and deaths all reached their peak within two weeks of each other, from mid to late July. After businesses reclosed in late June through mid-July, cases steadily declined and hit their lowest level on Sept. 10. It took an additional three weeks to see hospitalizations and deaths hit their lowest post-surge levels.

With widespread community transmission, the county’s daily case numbers continue to keep L.A. County in the state’s most-restrictive purple tier in the Blueprint for a Safer Economy. Currently, the county’s adjusted case rate is 7.6 new cases per 100,000 people. This is a slight increase from the 7.5 adjusted case rate reported last week. The county must reduce its daily number of new cases to 7 or fewer new cases per 100,000 people for two consecutive weeks in order to move to the next less-restrictive red tier. The county’s overall test positivity rate is 3.8% which meets the threshold for the orange tier (moderate spread of the virus) and the test positivity rate in the county’s lowest-resourced areas slightly decreased from 6.8% to 6.5% which still meets the threshold for the red tier (substantial spread of the virus).

“Unfortunately, with the recent surge in cases, we anticipate remaining in Tier 1 [purple tier] for the next few weeks. I don’t think this is where any of us anticipated being as we head into the fall and winter,” said Barbara Ferrer, director of Public Health, in a statement Thursday. “It isn’t just that our recovery journey is stalled, it is also that we have very tough choices in front of us heading into Thanksgiving and the winter holidays. We most likely haven’t yet seen the full consequences of the surge in cases we are experiencing, and while we have made impressive strides in caring for people who are ill with the virus, this significant increase in cases may very well result in tremendous suffering and tragic deaths.” 

With California surpassing 1 million coronavirus infections on Thursday, Ferrer urged resident to act and change behavior to curtail the virus. “We can turn this around so that we get back to slowing the spread. The actions we take today, tomorrow, and next week have tremendous impact on the health and well-being of many people in our county,” she said. “If collectively we fail to stop the acceleration of new cases, we will have no choice but to take additional actions.”  

On Friday, California along with Washington and Oregon announced travel advisories asking residents to stay local and urging everyone entering their states to self-quarantine for 14 days to slow the spread of the virus.

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