Home test kit
A home COVID-19 test kit. Courtesy NIH

Local COVID-19 daily case numbers and the testing-positivity rate are trending downward, indicating Los Angeles County appears to have “passed the peak” of the Omicron variant surge, but virus transmission remains at one of the highest points of the pandemic, the public health director said.

“Over the past two weeks, fortunately, we’ve seen a downward trend in cases and the test-positivity rate,” Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer told the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.

She said the seven-day average rate of new cases in the county was about 310 per 100,000 residents as of Monday, down from 380 per 100,000 residents a week ago. The testing-positivity rate has fallen from about 17% a week ago to roughly 14% this week.

“This downward trend is encouraging, and it signals that we’re likely to have passed the peak of Omicron transmission and are beginning to see a real decline in newly infected individuals,” Ferrer said. “However … the case numbers are still extraordinarily high.”

She said the county is still averaging about 32,000 new cases per day, and roughly one of every seven people who gets tested for the virus turns up positive.

“Unfortunately, because hospitalizations and deaths lag cases, there continue to be a significant number of people in L.A. County with severe illness,” she said. “… Sadly, given the high number of hospitalizations, deaths increased this past week, with an average of 61 individuals dying each day.”

The county reported 36 new COVID-19 deaths on Tuesday, raising the overall death toll from the virus to 28,540. The county also reported another 18,822 new cases, raising the cumulative pandemic total to 2,540,075.

The rolling average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus was 13.8% as of Tuesday.

According to state figures, there were 4,554 COVID-positive patients in county hospitals as of Tuesday, down from 4,573 on Monday. The number of those patients being treated in intensive care was 785, a slight drop from 794 a day earlier.

Ferrer stressed that despite downward trends in key pandemic metrics, COVID-19 transmission remains at one of its highest points of the pandemic, and people need to continue taking precautions to limit virus spread.

“While we’re finally turning the corner in the surge, we do need to remain cautious in order to reduce transmission to a low enough level that it poses less risk to those most vulnerable and less risk for our recovery journey,” Ferrer said. “With high transmission, we’ve seen outbreaks skyrocket across every sector and corresponding staff shortages that affect operations at schools, hospitals, businesses and entertainment venues.”

According to the county, 81% of eligible county residents aged 5 and above have received at least one dose of vaccine, and 72% are fully vaccinated. Only 32% are fully vaccinated with a booster shot. Of the county’s overall 10.3 million population, 77% have received one dose, 69% are fully vaccinated, and 30% are vaccinated and boosted.

The vaccination rate among children aged 5-11 remains low, with only 30% having received at least one dose, and only 20% are fully vaccinated. Ferrer said the low vaccination rate among children “creates significant vulnerability for spread” of the virus.

Ferrer said roughly half of the COVID-positive patients in county hospitals were actually admitted for reasons other than COVID, and only discovered they were infected when they were hospitalized. But Ferrer said even if a patient was admitted for a reason other than COVID, a virus-positive patient still requires more “resource-intensive precautions” that result in strain on short-staffed hospitals.

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