Los Angeles County could move out of the federal government’s “high” COVID-19 activity category Thursday based on recent drops in the rate of people being hospitalized with the virus, although the number of people being treated in local medical centers has risen slightly in recent days.
The county has been in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “high” COVID category since mid-July. The move came thanks to an average daily virus-related hospital admission rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents. That rate, however, has been on the decline and is expected to fall back below the threshold when the CDC updates its figures on Thursday, putting Los Angeles County back into the “medium” virus-activity level.
County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer told the Board of Supervisors Tuesday that all of the county’s metrics have continued to decline, and she anticipated falling out of the “high” category this week. She said last week that more current hospital numbers analyzed at the county level showed the hospital admission rate at 9.7 per 100,000 residents, good enough to move to the “medium” category.
The downward trend in the rate prompted Ferrer to announce last week that the county was dropping plans to reinstitute a mandatory indoor mask-wearing mandate. She said, however, that such a move could be considered again if there is another surge in cases and hospitalizations.
Ferrer said average daily new infection numbers declined again over the past week, falling to about 5,300 per day, compared to 6,100 per day the previous week.
On Wednesday, however, the county reported 6,637 new infections, raising the cumulative total from throughout the pandemic to 3,315,921. Another 22 virus-related fatalities were reported, giving the county an overall death toll of 32,785.
According to the county Department of Public Health, there were 1,273 COVID-positive patients hospitalized locally as of Wednesday, up from 1,242 on Tuesday and up from 1,220 on Saturday.
The average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus in the county was 13.7% as of Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the county on Wednesday began offering doses of the recently approved Novavax COVID-19 vaccine. Ferrer said the vaccine is a more traditional protein-based shot, rather than the mRNA technology used in the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. She told the Board of Supervisors this week she hoped the introduction of a more traditional vaccine might convince those who were hesitant to receive the Pfizer or Moderna shots to get vaccinated.
“We’re going to be able to say to folks, you know, we understand you had some concerns, you were worried about the new (mRNA) technology that wasn’t really so new, but folks who were worried about it with the vaccines, now we have something that really we’ve been making vaccines using this technology for over 30 years,” she said. “And it might give people some comfort around the safety issues and the efficacy issues.”
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization for the Novavax vaccine July 13 after it was found to be 90% effective against mild, moderate and severe disease in the company’s Phase 3 clinical trial involving 30,000 participants ages 18 and older.
County locations offering the Novavax shots can be found on the website vaccinatelacounty.com.
Residents can also contact their health-care provider to see if it offers Novavax.
Residents 18 years and older can get the Novavax vaccine, which is a two-dose primary series, with the second dose administered three weeks after the first. Boosters are not recommended, and the Novavax vaccine is not authorized for children 17 and younger.