The average number of new COVID-19 cases being reported in Los Angeles County each day continued to fall this week, but the public health director noted that the official daily numbers are vastly underestimating the actual amount of virus activity.
During her weekly media briefing, county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said the seven-day average daily number of new virus infections in the county was about 1,900 as of Thursday, down from about 2,300 at the beginning of January.
“It’s a relief to share that we’re not seeing a large spike in cases right now,” Ferrer said, noting that case numbers have traditionally swelled following holiday periods due to large numbers of gatherings.
But she added, “We know that this metric doesn’t catch all or even most cases, especially with so many people testing at home.”
Health officials have said for weeks that official COVID case numbers were undercounts due to the prevalence of home testing, with those results rarely reported to the county. Health officials also noted that many people simple don’t test at all, even if they are sick.
Ferrer said Thursday the county is averaging 162 virus-related hospital admissions per day, down from 192 in late December and from 211 in early January.
While the average admission number has fallen, “this number is still high,” Ferrer said, saying the figure is “on par with the peak of the summer surge.”
“This is a reminder that while our numbers are currently stable, they are stable at an elevated level,” she said.
The county is also averaging 23 new COVID-related deaths per day, up from 15 during the last week in December. Ferrer said the increase was expected, given the spike in case numbers that occurred at the end of the year.
Ferrer also presented numbers showing the disproportionate impact of COVID hospitalizations and deaths on people aged 80 and older. She said the death rate for that age group was five times higher than the rate for people aged 65 to 79, and the hospitalization rate was three times higher.
She again encouraged residents to continue taking precautions such as wearing masks in indoor settings, and ensuring they are up to date on vaccinations and boosters.
The county reported 1,716 new COVID infections on Thursday, giving the county a cumulative total of 3,657,744 from throughout the pandemic. Another 27 virus-related fatalities were reported, raising the overall death toll to 34,944.
The seven-day average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus was 7.1% as of Thursday, down from 9.4% a week ago.
According to state figures, there were 1,119 COVID-positive patients in county hospitals as of Thursday, down slightly from 1,128 on Wednesday. Of those patients, 133 were being treated in intensive care units, down from 139 a day earlier.
County health officials have said that roughly 40% of COVID-positive patients were admitted to hospitals specifically for virus-related reasons, while the rest were admitted for other issues and tested positive upon admission.
L.A. County remains in the federal government’s “medium” transmission range. 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. Otherwise, they are only strongly recommended at indoor settings.