The number of COVID-19-positive patients in Los Angeles County hospitals dipped slightly Wednesday, falling below the 1,200 mark, while more than 2,100 new infections were reported.

According to state figures, there were 1,195 COVID-positive patients hospitalized in the county as of Wednesday, down from 1,220 on Saturday. Of those patients, 151 were being treated in intensive care, down slightly from 153 on Saturday.

Health officials have estimated that roughly 40% of patients with the virus were admitted for actual COVID-related ailments, while others were hospitalized for other reasons, with many only learning they were infected upon admission.

COVID-related hospital admission rates have been falling in recent weeks after spiking upward during November. The hospitalizations figures fell enough this month for the county to move out of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “high” COVID activity category to “medium.”

Infection numbers have also been falling but remain elevated, with 2,138 new cases reported by the county on Wednesday. The new cases lifted the county’s cumulative total from throughout the pandemic to 3,624,419.

Daily official case numbers are believed to be an undercount of actual infections, since many people rely on at-home tests without reporting the results, and many others don’t test at all.

Although case numbers have been falling in recent weeks, county health officials warned last week that “death rates … continue to climb in Los Angeles County, especially among older people.”

On Wednesday, the county reported 21 new virus-related deaths, raising the overall death toll to 34,619.

The seven-day average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus was 15% as of Wednesday, up from 11.7% a week ago.

County health officials in recent weeks have urged residents to exercise caution during holiday celebrations and “layer” protections to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

Mask wearing continues to be “strongly recommended” by the county at indoor public settings. But Ferrer said that even absent a mandate, residents should start wearing them, given the elevated rate of transmission.

Masks are still required indoors at health-care and congregate-care facilities, for anyone exposed to the virus in the past 10 days, and at businesses where they are required by the owner.

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