Nearly 1,200 new COVID-19 infections were reported in Los Angeles County Thursday, with the public health director noting a slight rise in the weekly case rate after months of steady declines.

While Barbara Ferrer told reporters the modest increase was not an immediate cause for alarm, she said officials will be closely monitoring the numbers because “they do suggest that locally there is no longer a consistent decline.”

She also said it again raises concerns about the possibility of another winter surge in infections. But she said the widespread availability of vaccines should help prevent widespread severe illness.

Complicating matters, however, is the onset of the flu season, which Ferrer said has already begun in the county — the earliest start in the past five years. The county has also been seeing higher-than-normal levels of the respiratory illness known as RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus.

For both illnesses, Ferrer said it is too early to tell if the early high numbers will lead to months of higher-than-usual infection numbers, noting that the trends tend to vary dramatically from year to year.

But she said the early high numbers should serve as an impetus for residents to resume some of the infection-control measures that became familiar during the COVID pandemic — such as hand-washing for at least 20 seconds, using hand sanitizer, wearing masks in crowded situations and being up to date on vaccinations.

The county reported 1,187 new COVID-19 infections Thursday, raising the overall number from throughout the pandemic to 3,484,615. Another 13 deaths were also reported, giving the county a cumulative virus-related death toll of 33,945.

According to state figures, there were 390 COVID-positive patients in Los Angeles County hospitals as of Thursday, up from 368 on Wednesday. Of those patients, 37 were being treated in intensive care, down from 40 a day earlier.

County officials have said that roughly 40% of the COVID-positive hospital patients were admitted specifically for COVID, while the others were hospitalized for other reasons but tested positive upon admission.

The seven-day average rate of people testing positive for the virus was 4.1% as of Thursday, up from roughly 3.6% a week ago.

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