Covid Doctor - photo courtesy of Pexels

Another 3,125 COVID-19 infections were reported in Los Angeles County Tuesday, while virus-related hospitalizations rose again as a long-feared winter surge in cases continued to materialize.

The new infections lifted the county’s overall total from throughout the pandemic to 3,565,418. The number, however, is believed to be an undercount of actual COVID activity in the county, since many residents use at-home tests without reporting the results and many others don’t test at all.

The county Department of Public Health reported 10 new virus-related deaths on Monday, giving the county an overall death toll of 34,251.

According to state figures, there were 1,270 COVID-positive patients in county hospitals as of Tuesday, up from 1,205 reported on Saturday. Of those patients, 151 were being treated in intensive care units, up from 123 on Saturday.

The seven-day average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus was 13.5% as of Tuesday, up from 12.6% a week ago.

County health officials are keeping a close watch on COVID-related hospitalization numbers, warning that continued increases could lead to another indoor mask-wearing mandate in public spaces.

The county has already moved into the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “medium” virus activity level, after weeks in the “low” category. The county could move into the “high” category as early as this week, if the weekly rate of new infections reaches 200 per 100,000 residents. As of last Thursday, that rate was 185 per 100,000 residents, county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said last week.

Ferrer said the county will re-impose an indoor mask mandate if it moves into the “high” category and if the county’s virus-related hospitalization numbers reach two thresholds:

— if the rate of daily hospital admissions tops 10 per 100,000 residents; and

— if the percent of staffed hospital beds occupied by COVID patients tops 10%.

The county has already surpassed the first threshold, with the rate of daily hospital admissions already at 12.1 per 100,000 residents as of Saturday. The level of hospital beds occupied by COVID patients was 6.4% as of Saturday, according to the CDC, still below the 10% threshold.

Masks are still required indoors at health-care and congregate-care facilities, for anyone exposed to the virus in the past 10 days, and at businesses where they are required by the owner.

In other indoor locations, masking is only “strongly recommended” by the county.

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