COVID-19 cases in Los Angeles County remain high, with another variant growing


LOS ANGELES (CNS) — Not an “increase” by any means, but COVID-19 transmission remains widespread throughout Los Angeles County, the public health director said Thursday, noting increases in key metrics. used to track the virus and warn of the suddenly increased presence of another, even more communicable variant.

In raw numbers, Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer on Thursday reported another 2,335 COVID infections in the county. The daily average number of new cases reported by the county over the past seven days rose to 1,764, up from 1,261 the previous week, she said.

The daily average number of cases is about triple the number it was a month ago, Ferrer said.

He also noted small but steady increases over the past week in the number of COVID-positive people in county hospitals. The number rose to 249 on Thursday, up from 235 on Wednesday. The number of those patients treated in intensive care was 30, up from 28 the day before.

Ferrer noted that those numbers are still relatively low compared to the winter surge numbers that topped 8,000. She credited widespread vaccination, therapy and immunity from previous infections with keeping people who become infected from ending up hospitalized.

Health officials have warned in recent weeks that the rise in the number of cases may actually be greater than the numbers reflected in test results, as many people test at home and may not report results. to the county. And many others may not get tested because they are not getting seriously ill.

Hoping to counter those lapses, the county is monitoring COVID concentrations in four wastewater systems in the area. The most recent results show that the average concentration of the virus found on most of those systems has risen sharply, with two showing almost double the rate from two weeks ago and a third showing a sharp increase. But the fourth system monitored actually showed a small decline.

“This suggests that community transmission is increasing in the areas covered by these sewer systems,” Ferrer said.

It also noted increases in outbreaks at homeless shelters and skilled nursing facilities, along with previously noted increases in cases among students and school staff after spring break.

According to Ferrer, the infectious subvariant BA.2 of COVID-19 is now responsible for 88% of local cases that underwent special tests to identify variants. BA.2 has been blamed for driving up the number of infections locally and nationally, with officials saying it is exponentially more transmissible than the omicron variant that fueled the winter surge in cases.

But now, there is another variant to worry about. Experts had previously identified a branch of BA.2 that was dubbed BA.2.12.1, and it is now rapidly gaining control. That new branch was detected in 7% of Los Angeles County infections tested during the week ending April 9, up from 3% the week before.

Ferrer said state officials have estimated that BA.2.12.1 could account for half of all infections in California in a matter of days. She said experts have estimated that BA.2.12.1 is about 20% to 30% more infectious than BA.2.

“It could quickly become the dominant strain in the United States,” Ferrer said, noting that the new branch has been found to account for 58% of the cases tested in New York, New Jersey and Puerto Rico.

It is not yet known whether BA.2.12.1 causes more severe disease or might be more resistant to vaccines.

The 2,335 new cases reported Thursday brought the county’s total number during the pandemic to 2,869,785. Eight more virus-related deaths were also reported Thursday, bringing the county’s death toll from the virus to 31,959.

The average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus was 1.8% as of Thursday.

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Reference-abc7.com

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