One day after Los Angeles County scrubbed plans to re-impose a universal mask-wearing mandate, citing downward trends in COVID-19 numbers, the county health department reported continued stable case and hospitalization numbers — and indicated the county could be on track to move into the “medium” transmission level by next week, dropping from “high.”
The county’s seven-day case rate — while still elevated at 426 cases per 100,000 people — declined from 481 per 100,000 last week, according to the latest data, the county said.
In addition, using the most recent hospitalization data, Los Angeles County is experiencing a rate of 9.7 new hospitalizations — suggesting that by Thursday, assuming rates stay stable or decline, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention could designate the county at the “medium” community level, the health department reported.
“We are gratified to see improvements in our metrics and appreciate all those whose efforts continue to provide protection to those most vulnerable, since, as has been in the past, surges have the most negative consequences on those who are unvaccinated, older, have underlying health conditions, live in communities with high rates of poverty, and have more exposures at work and in the community,” Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said.
While masks will not be required, they are recommended, Ferrer said.
“As we are hopefully moving to the medium community level, we will need to continue to use common-sense safety measures to reduce community transmission to a level that causes less disruption, less illness, and less death,” she said.
“We have great tools and we will need to use them. Please be up-to-date on your vaccinations to reduce your chances of severe illness should you get infected; wear your mask indoors to reduce the spread of an infectious agent at its source, while also protecting the wearer from aerosolized virus and respiratory droplets.”
The health department Friday reported 6,399 new positive cases of COVID-19, increasing the total since the start of the pandemic to 3,292,692. There were 18 new deaths reported, increasing the total to 32,708. All but one of the deaths reported Friday were among people with underlying health conditions.
The number of COVID-positive patients in county hospitals remained unchanged Friday at 1,239 — down from 1,280 on Wednesday, according to state figures. Of those patients, 138 were being treated in intensive care, down from 147 a day earlier.
Meanwhile, the department also announced Friday that county coronavirus vaccination sites will start administering the Novavax vaccine beginning Wednesday.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization for the vaccine July 13 after it was found to be 90% effective against mild, moderate and severe disease in the company’s Phase 3 clinical trial involving 30,000 participants ages 18 and older.
“Authorizing an additional COVID-19 vaccine expands the available vaccine options for the prevention of COVID-19, including the most severe outcomes that can occur such as hospitalization and death,” FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert M. Califf said in announcing vaccine’s authorization.
Unlike the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, the Novavax vaccine was developed without the use of mRNA technology.
Novavax, in use in other countries, is a more “traditional” vaccine, developed using protein-based technology, which the FDA has been using for decades to treat diseases such as hepatitis B, shingles and human papillomavirus. The vaccine presents a specific portion of the virus, which the body generates immunity against.
L.A. County residents 18 years and older can get the Novavax vaccine, which is a two-dose primary series, with the second dose administered three weeks after the first. Boosters are not recommended and the Novavax vaccine is not authorized for children 17 and younger.
Residents can walk into any Los Angeles County Department of Public Health vaccination location to receive the vaccine. Residents can also contact their provider to see if their provider is offering Novavax.