One day after Los Angeles County escaped the federal government’s “high” COVID-19 activity category, advancing to the “medium” level, the public health director urged residents Friday to maintain precautions against virus spread, saying transmission remains high.

The county moved into the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “medium” virus-activity category on Thursday, when the average daily rate of people being admitted to hospitals for COVID reasons fell — barely — below 10 per 100,000 residents. CDC figures put the county’s virus-related admission rate at 9.9 per 100,000 residents.

That was good enough to escape the “high” category, which the county entered in mid-July, raising the possibility of another indoor mask-wearing mandate. The county ultimately opted against the new mandate, citing steadily improving infection and hospitalization numbers.

Masks are still required in some settings, including health care facilities, homeless shelters, aboard transit vehicles and at transit centers, along with correctional facilities.

“While we are thankful to see our county move to the medium community level, because we know that getting infected causes disruptions at the workplace and in the family and for some, becoming infected leads to debilitating illness, we advise caution, and ongoing use of a sensible approach for reducing the risk of exposure and preventing severe illness,” county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement Friday. “All tools available help: getting vaccinated and boosted reduces risk of severe illness, testing before and after gathering, wearing masks when indoors, and staying home and away from others when sick reduces transmission.”

The county on Friday reported 19 more COVID-related deaths, raising the overall death toll from throughout the pandemic to 32,922. Another 3,995 infections were also reported, giving the county a cumulative pandemic total of 3,351,082.

The average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus was 11.1% as of Friday.

According to state figures, there were 1,065 COVID-positive patients in county hospitals as of Friday, down from 1,098 on Thursday. Of those patients, 120 were being treated in intensive care, down from 125 on Thursday.

County officials have said that roughly 43% of the COVID-positive patients admitted to hospitals were actually admitted for virus-related illness, while the others were admitted for other reasons, with some only learning they were infected when they were tested at the hospital.

The number of new COVID infections reported each day by the county is also believed to be an undercount of actual virus activity, since many people use at-home tests, the results of which are not always reported to the county.

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