With local COVID-19 infection numbers surging upward, topping 1,000 new cases for the fifth straight day, Los Angeles County supervisors Tuesday lamented continued resistance to vaccines while health officials announced an outreach effort to bring shots to people’s doors.
The county reported 1,103 new COVID cases on Tuesday, lifting the cumulative total from throughout the pandemic to 1,259,772. The county also reported 12 new fatalities due to the virus, increasing the death toll to 24,554.
The rolling seven-day average rate of people testing positive for the virus was 2.9% as of Tuesday, up from 2.8% on Monday and well above the 0.3% rate from mid-June.
State figures, meanwhile, showed that hospitalizations due to COVID in Los Angeles County were pushing the 400 mark, reaching 398. That was up from 376 on Monday. There were 94 people in intensive care, up from 85 a day earlier.
While the hospitalization numbers are still relatively low compared to the patient totals during the winter surge that reached 8,000, the slow and steady increase in recent weeks is sparking concern among health officials, who say the increase highlights the importance of vaccinations.
“Even without the same level of threat to the health care system that we experienced during the surge, these rising cases among all groups and the disproportionately higher rates among Black and Latinx residents are both concerning and require continued actions to prevent spread and poor outcomes among those who have already suffered the most during this pandemic,” county Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis told the Board of Supervisors. “It’s clear the threat of COVID-19 is still with us, and that we are dealing with a more infectious variant that causes it. And the best collective action that each of us can take is to get vaccinated … and take sensible precaution if you are not eligible or choose not to be vaccinated.”
The county’s medical services director, Dr. Christina Ghaly, told the Board of Supervisors Tuesday that none of the county-operated hospitals have admitted a single COVID-19 patient who was fully vaccinated.
“Every single patient that we’ve admitted for COVID has been not yet fully vaccinated, and that’s hard for the health-care workers to see,” Ghaly said. “They’ve spent hours, effort, energy trying to care for patients, and at this point this really is a preventable illness, a preventable infection.”
County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl said people who refuse to get vaccinated aren’t considering the impact they are having on health care workers.
“I really want to continue to express a prayer to all of those who are not vaccinated to understand the impact that they have, not only on their communities and their families, but other people in their communities who are the health care workers, who are the people toiling more than 14, 15, 16 hours a day to take care of them when they don’t want to take care of themselves,” Kuehl said. “I’m sorry to sound a little angry, but it just strikes me as enormously selfish. We can’t rely on herd immunity if the herd won’t get their shots.”
Supervisor Hilda Solis called Kuehl’s comments “very on point,” and Supervisor Janice Hahn concurred with her “heartfelt angst over all those who are not getting vaccinated.”
Surging case numbers are largely being blamed on the highly infectious “Delta” variant of the COVID-19 virus. Davis again noted that Black and Latino residents — who have the lowest vaccination rates in the county — are bearing the brunt of increases in new cases and rising hospitalizations.
Davis said the county has started a pilot project that works through contact-tracers to deliver vaccines to people’s homes, starting in East Los Angeles, which has a low rate of vaccinations.
“The purpose of this project is to vaccinate close contacts of COVID-19 cases,” Davis said.
When close contacts of people who contract the virus are reached by county officials, they are offered the opportunity to get the shot from a nurse who comes to their home.
“This happens once they’re identified and if they’re willing to be vaccinated,” Davis said.
He said the program also offers “to vaccinate their contacts as well, in order to create a ring of people around them that are fully vaccinated.”
The program began Friday in East Los Angeles, but could be expanded to other areas with low vaccination rates if it proves successful.
Davis continued to urge adherence to mask-wearing guidance at workplaces and other public settings. He also urged people to reconsider travel plans as cases are surging.
“I do want to recommend, especially if you’re unvaccinated, you reconsider traveling to places where the seven-day COVID-19 case rates are increasing or high, like Nevada, our neighbor, or Missouri, Florida, Arkansas, Louisiana and others,” he said. “… Every action counts and we are all in this together.”
In hopes of encouraging more people to get vaccinated, the county is continuing to offer incentives. Through 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 seven concert ticket prizes, including box seats at the Hollywood Bowl and tickets to Staples Center concerts including Celine Dion, Grupo Firma, Luke Bryan, Kane Brown and Dan+Shay.
According to the most recent figures from the Department of Public Health, among county residents age 16 and older, 69% have received at least one dose of vaccine, and 61% are fully vaccinated. The rate among Black residents, however, is only 45% with at least one dose, compared to 54% for Latino residents, 65% for white residents and 76% for Asians. Vaccination rates continue to be especially low among younger Black residents, with only 28% of those aged 18-29 vaccinated.