Covid-19 Rapid Test
Photo by Clancy O'Dessky for MyNewsLA.com

Los Angeles County reported 3,237 new COVID-19 infections in its latest data as the number of virus-positive patients in local hospitals appeared to fall again.

County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Tuesday that COVID hospitalization figures are in flux due to an issue with the system used by hospitals to report patient numbers to the state. She said the problem has resulted in some questionable fluctuations in the numbers over the past week.

The state reported 796 COVID-positive patients in county hospitals as of Wednesday, although the county noted that the number could change. The figure is down from the 841 reported on Tuesday. Of those patients, 79 were being treated in intensive care.

Health officials have said roughly 43% of COVID-positive hospital 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 3,237 new cases reported by the county lifted the overall total from throughout the pandemic to 3,408,413.

Ferrer reiterated Tuesday that the numbers reported by the county are likely an undercount, since many people now rely on at-home tests, the results of which are not reported to the health department.

Another 17 COVID-related deaths were reported by the county Wednesday, raising the death toll from throughout the pandemic to 33,155.

The average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus was 8.4% as of Wednesday.

Ferrer told the Board of Supervisors Tuesday that the falling case rate in recent weeks could result in the county being moved to the federal government’s “low” virus activity category, rather than the current “medium” classification.

The county was placed in the “high” virus level by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in mid-July, a result of a new infection rate that topped 200 per 100,000 residents and an average daily virus-related hospitalization rate that topped 10 per 100,000 residents. On Aug. 12, however, the county moved back to the “medium” category when the hospitalization rate fell below 10 per 100,000 residents.

Moving into the “low” category will require the county’s hospitalization rate to remain below that threshold, and for the rate of new infections to fall below 200 per 100,000 residents. That rate has been steadily falling, reaching 213 per 100,000 people as of Tuesday, down substantially from a month ago, Ferrer said.

“It’s possible L.A. County … could move to the low community level in this next week, should that case rate drop below 200,” Ferrer said.

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