COVIDmask
COVID mask - Photo courtesy of Anna Shvets on Pexels

Continuing an upward trend in infections, Los Angeles County reported more than 3,000 new COVID-19 infections Thursday, but the number of virus-positive patients in local hospitals remained low.

The 3,003 new infections reported Thursday represent one of the largest daily numbers registered by the county Department of Public Health in weeks. The new cases lifted the county’s cumulative infection total from throughout the pandemic to 2,885,175.

Four more virus-related deaths were reported, raising the county’s overall death toll to 31,986.

According to state figures, there were 244 people COVID-positive patients in Los Angeles County hospitals as of Thursday, down from 248 on Wednesday. Of those patients, 37 were being treated in intensive care, up from 27 a day earlier.

The rolling average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus was 2.2% as of Thursday, roughly the same as the previous day.

Average daily case numbers in the county have increased by about 200% over the past month, the public health director said this week, pointing to the rapid rise of more infectious variants of the virus as sparking more infections.

Barbara Ferrer noted Wednesday that the BA.2 variant of COVID-19 and its offshoots now represent 96% of all local COVID infections that underwent special testing to identify variants. BA.2 is a subvariant of the Omicron strain of the virus that caused a sharp surge in cases during the winter months. The county, however, is already seeing rising numbers of cases identified as BA.2.12.1, which is an offshoot of BA.2. That offshoot now represents 8% of cases tested in the county, she said.

The county is also monitoring the progress of two more variants blamed for spiking case numbers in South Africa — BA.4 and BA.5. Ferrer said only one case of BA.4 has been detected in the county, but no BA.5 strains have been identified.

Again urging people to take precautions against virus spread, Ferrer said Wednesday she sympathizes with people weary of calls for mask-wearing and other cautionary steps.

“I do know that most everyone is tired of the pandemic, tired of wearing masks and exhausted trying to deal with the uncertainty and the ever-changing guidance,” she said during an online media briefing. “And it’s very tempting to minimize the impact of the virus to support our desire to return to our pre-pandemic lives.

“Unfortunately, I think that would be a mistake that would make it harder for us to embrace strategies that extend protections while minimizing disruptions. There continue to be sensible steps we can take to reduce risk and prevent serious illness and death for those most vulnerable.”

She again urged residents to wear masks when in crowded settings, even if they aren’t mandated. She also again pushed for people to get vaccinated and receive booster shots, and to stay home if they are feeling sick.

Masks are still required indoors at health care facilities, homeless shelters, skilled nursing facilities, aboard transit vehicles and in transportation hubs like airports.

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