The number of positive COVID-19 patients in Los Angeles County hospitals continued to rise on Thursday, January 6, but remained well below the peak seen during last winter’s surge in virus cases.
According to state figures, there were 2,661 positive COVID patients in county hospitals, up from 2,461 on Wednesday. The number of those patients who were treated in intensive care units was 352 on Thursday, up from 330 the day before.
The number of positive COVID patients hasn’t been this high since mid-February 2021. But the number is still well below the peak of more than 8,000 reached last January, at the height of that winter’s surge in virus infections. .
While the numbers have risen, officials have noted that the numbers are generally lower, and the highly infectious variant of Omicron is believed to cause less serious illness, particularly in vaccinated people. In fact, many COVID-positive patients in hospitals probably didn’t realize they were infected until they went to the hospital for a completely different reason.
Dr. Christina Ghaly, county health services director, said that about two-thirds of positive COVID patients at the four county-run hospitals were admitted for other reasons and only tested positive on admission.
That makes a big difference from last winter, when patients flocked to hospitals for COVID-related illnesses.
Rising infection numbers prompted the county this week to amend its public health order, requiring employers to provide improved masks to employees who work indoors in close contact with others.
The order, issued Wednesday, takes effect on January 17 and requires employers to provide affected workers with “medical grade masks, surgical masks or higher-level respirators, such as N95 or KN95 masks.”
The revised order also modified the definition of outdoor “mega-events,” where masking is required, to 5,000 or more attendees; and the definition of indoor “mega-events” for 500 or more people. The numbers line up with the state’s health order. The county order also “recommends” that food and beverages be consumed only in designated eating areas.
“Given the explosive spread of the virus, activities that put us in close contact with many other people are now at increased risk,” county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement. “As such, everyone should be sensible about how to protect themselves and their loved ones by applying layers of protection whenever they are around people other than members of the household.
“At work, this means updating your mask if you work indoors and are in contact with other workers or members of the public. In entertainment venues, this means limiting the time you spend without wearing your enhanced mask. And for other activities, this may mean postponing their participation until community transmission is greatly reduced. “
The enhanced mask requirement for county workplaces reflects an order issued late last week by the county for K-12 schools, which requires teachers and staff to wear higher grade face shields. USC announced this week that it will require all students and staff to wear higher grade masks when classes resume in person.
The changes come amid a surge in COVID-19 infections driven by the highly transmissible Omicron variant of the virus. The county reported another 26,754 cases Wednesday, bringing the cumulative total of pandemics to 1,806,828.
Another 27 COVID deaths were also reported, giving the county a total death toll of 27,698.
The average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus was 22.4% as of Wednesday. That rate was below 1% a month ago.