Another 20 COVID-19-related deaths have been reported in Los Angeles County, while the number of virus-positive patients in local hospitals ticked up slightly.
The 20 new deaths reported Friday lifted the county’s cumulative virus-related death toll to 33,096, according to the county Department of Public Health.
State figures showed there were 827 COVID-positive patients in county hospitals as of Friday, up from 802 on Thursday. Of those patients, 101 were being treated in intensive care, down from 124 a day earlier.
County officials have said that roughly 43% of the COVID-positive patients 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 county reported another 3,694 COVID infections Friday, raising the overall total from throughout the pandemic to 3,396,657. The county-reported case figures are believed to under-count the actual number of infections, since many people now rely on at-home tests, the results of which are often not relayed to county health officials.
The average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus was 8.5% as of Friday.
County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer encouraged residents Friday to take advantage of available COVID medications if they are infected with the virus, saying they can prevent patients from becoming seriously ill.
“An important part of Public Health’s work is to partner with healthcare providers to make it as easy as possible to access these free medications for those that need them,” Ferrer said in a statement. “These medications are all currently available for free, whether you have insurance or not. Note that in some cases, healthcare providers may charge for their medical assessment.
“Anyone with COVID who has risk factors for severe disease is encouraged to always consult with their own primary healthcare provider first, if you have one. Your own healthcare provider will always know your health best. If you don’t have a healthcare provider, call 2-1-1.”
The county this week expanded the availability of the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine to everyone aged 12 and over, the public health officer said.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved an emergency use authorization last week for the vaccine in people aged 12-17, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention signed off this week. The vaccine had previously been restricted to people aged 18 and over.
Health officials have expressed hope that the Novavax vaccine would be more widely accepted by vaccine-hesitant residents, since it is based on more traditional protein-based technology used in other medications for decades — rather than the mRNA process employed by the Pfizer and Moderna COVID shots.
Novavax is also a two-shot regimen, with the doses administered three to eight weeks apart. Booster shots are not currently recommended for those who receive the Novavax vaccine.