Los Angeles County’s COVID-19 case rate fell low enough this week to exit the federal government’s most severe “high” transmission category, but the public health director said lingering disparities in vaccination rates continue to threaten new surges of the virus illnesses.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the county’s cumulative seven-day rate of COVID-19 infections was 87.5 per 100,000 residents, enough to fall out of the “high” transmission category and into the less severe “substantial” category.

The seven-day cumulative infection rate last week was 104 per 100,000 residents. The counties move out of the CDC’s “high” transmission category mirrored the move of the state as a whole. California is now the only state in the nation to advance to the CDC’s “substantial” transmission ranking.

County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer noted last week that the county has seen its case rate slowly but steadily fall. But she told the county Board of Supervisors Wednesday that despite that recent success, disparities in vaccination rates among ethnic and age groups continue to pose a threat of more virus surges.

“The sad reality is it’s been almost six months since vaccines became widely available in L.A. County, and yet with the exception of adults 65-79 years old, no numbers (of vaccination rates) are even close to 100%, with large numbers of people in each of these subgroups still unvaccinated,” Ferrer said. “And persistent gaps should worry all of us, since these indicate significant opportunities for continued high transmission of the virus and the associated risk of increased variants of concerns. We need to reach as many people in each of these subgroups if we’re going to have a chance at ending this pandemic.”

Younger residents across all ethnic groups have lower vaccination rates than older residents, according to figures shared by Ferrer Wednesday. And the Black communities continues to have the lowest overall rate. Figures show only 51% of eligible Black residents have received at least one dose of vaccine, along with 60% of Latino/a residents, 70% of white residents and 80% of Asians.

Ferrer reported another 37 COVID-19 deaths on Wednesday, raising the overall death toll to 25,748.

Another 1,930 cases were also confirmed, giving the county a cumulative total from throughout the pandemic of 1,437,073.

The rolling average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus in the county was 1.6% as of Wednesday, down from 3.3% a week ago.

She noted that current statistics show that unvaccinated residents in the county were 4.2 times more likely than vaccinated people to get infected with COVID in August, 11.7 times more likely to be hospitalized and 10 times more likely to die.

According to the most recent numbers, 75% of eligible county residents age 12 and over have received at least one dose of vaccine, and 66% are fully vaccinated. Among the county’s overall population of 10.3 million, 65% have received one dose and 57% are fully vaccinated. That population figure includes roughly 1.3 million people under age 12 who are ineligible for shots.

Of the nearly 5.4 million fully vaccinated people in the county as of Sept. 7, 43,598 had subsequently tested positive for COVID-19, for a rate of 0.81%, she said. A total of 1,243 fully vaccinated people have been hospitalized, for a rate of 0.023% and 165 have died, for a rate of 0.0031%.

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