Los Angeles County moved closer to an indoor mask mandate as another 6,450 COVID-19 cases were confirmed Wednesday, while the number of virus-positive patients in county hospitals topped 1,300.
According to state figures, there were 1,328 COVID-positive patients hospitalized in the county as of Wednesday, up from 1,299 on Tuesday. Of those patients, 137 were being treated in intensive care, the same number as the previous day.
The number of hospital patients is the highest it has been since mid- February.
County health officials have noted in recent weeks that about 42% of virus-positive patients were admitted specifically for COVID-related illness, while the rest went to hospitals for unrelated reasons. All virus-positive patients, however, require stepped-up infection control measures while they are hospitalized, regardless of the reason for their admission.
The 6,450 new cases announced Wednesday lifted the cumulative total from throughout the pandemic to 3,236,632.
The overall number of cases listed by the county is believed to be an undercount, due to many residents taking advantage of at-home tests, the results of which are not always reported to health officials.
Another 18 virus-related fatalities were also announced Wednesday, raising the overall death toll in the county to 32,566.
The average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus was 16.7% as of Wednesday.
Steadily rising hospital numbers over the past few weeks led to the county being moved into the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “high” virus-activity level last Thursday. The move came when the average daily rate of COVID hospitalizations rose to 10.5 per 100,000 residents, surpassing the threshold of 10 per 100,000.
If the county remains in the “high” category for two weeks — which appears inevitable — it will reinstate a universal mandatory indoor mask- wearing mandate. That is expected to occur on July 29.
If the mask mandate takes effect, it will remain in place until the county falls back to the “medium” virus-activity category for two weeks.
Masks are already still mandated in some indoor spaces — health care facilities, transit hubs, on transit vehicles, airports, correctional facilities and shelters. A universal mandate would spread the requirement to all indoor public spaces, including shared office spaces, manufacturing facilities, retail stores, indoor events, indoor restaurants and bars and schools.
County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said the recent spike in infections — leading to the ultimate rise in hospitalizations and deaths — has been fueled primarily by the BA.5 variant of the virus. The variant was detected in nearly half of all local cases that underwent special testing to identify stains of the virus. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the variant is responsible for nearly 70% of cases nationally.