The number of new COVID-19 infections in Los Angeles County again pushed over the 500 mark Wednesday, while the number of people hospitalized reached nearly 300, prompting health officials to promote a community-outreach program aimed at spreading the word about infection-control efforts.
The county has been seeing a rise in daily COVID-19 infections over the past two weeks, reporting more than 600 new cases on Saturday — nearly triple the numbers being reported in mid-June.
On Wednesday, the county reported 515 new infections, although some of those cases could be the result of a reporting backlog from the long holiday weekend. The new cases pushed the cumulative countywide total during the pandemic to 1,253,536.
Another eight COVID deaths were confirmed by the county Wednesday, lifting the countywide death toll to 24,514.
According to state figures, there were 296 people hospitalized due to COVID in the county, up from 275 on Tuesday. There were 71 people in intensive care, down from 73 a day earlier. While hospitalization numbers have been increasing slowly, they are still a fraction of the four-digit figures seen during the county’s winter surge of infections.
With daily cases rising, the county Department of Public Health urged residents Wednesday to consider taking part in its COVID-19 Community Ambassador Program, an effort to “actively engage the broader community in best practices to further prevent and slow the spread of COVID-19 in Los Angeles County.”
“We must continue to work together to improve vaccine confidence and acceptance so that vaccination rates increase, and we reach a level of community immunity that protects everyone,” Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement. “We are grateful for all the residents participating in the COVID-19 Ambassador Program who provide accurate information to their friends and co-workers on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“As COVID-19 transmission has increased over the past couple of weeks, it is very important we continue to work together to protect each other and make sure that individuals with questions about the vaccine, have access to information about the vaccines’ safety and effectiveness from people they trust.”
To date, nearly 3,000 residents have completed the training in the Ambassador program. Information on the program is available at publichealth.lacounty.gov/CommunityAmbassadorProgram/.
Health officials have said the county’s recent increases in daily infections and testing-positivity are being fueled by the rise in COVID-19 variants, particularly the highly contagious “Delta” variant. They added that with 4 million residents in L.A. County still unvaccinated — including 1.3 million children who aren’t eligible for shots — there is enough risk for the variant to pose a significant threat.
“Delta” has also become California’s most identified strain of the coronavirus, accounting for 35.6% of the variants analyzed in June, a steep increase from May, when the number was just 5.6%, according to the California Department of Public Health.
Ferrer said last week 245 cases of the “Delta” variant have been confirmed in the county, nearly double the number from the previous week. The county conducts only limited sequencing tests needed to identify the variants, so the number cannot be extrapolated across the population, but “Delta” has become the most dominant variant detected in the county.
As of last week, more than 10.4 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine had been administered in the county. The latest numbers show that 59% of residents age 16 or older are fully vaccinated, while 68% have received at least one dose. The numbers are higher among seniors, with 76% of people 65 and older fully vaccinated, and 87% with at least one dose.
The weekly pace of vaccinations, however, has slowed from an winter/spring high of about 500,000 doses per week in the county to now less than 60,000. Vaccinations continue to lag among the Black community, which is also bearing the brunt of new COVID infections and hospitalizations.
In hopes of encouraging more people to get vaccinated, the county is continuing to offer incentives. Continuing until Thursday, anyone who gets vaccinated at sites operated by the county, the city of Los Angeles or St. John’s Well Child and Family Center will be entered for a chance to win one of four ticket packages for the Huntington Library, Descanso Gardens, Los Angeles County Arboretum and South Coast Botanic Garden. The packages include an annual membership to the Huntington and one-day passes to the other facilities.