Barbara Ferrer
LA County Health Chief Barbara Ferrer. Courtesy LA County Department of Public Health

Coronavirus metrics in Los Angeles County rose across the board, with the Department of Public Health reporting 3,968 new cases, along with a total of 1,269 confirmed virus-related hospitalizations and 25 more COVID-related deaths in its latest data.

Thursday’s daily case number represented a jump of 1,830 from Wednesday, while hospitalizations increased by 74 day over day. The 25 virus-related deaths reported Thursday were four more than Wednesday’s total, the agency said.

“I am hopeful that we can get through this winter without the devastation witnessed during our previous two winter surges, while recognizing that there are still significant risks, especially with the potential of a new COVID strain,” county health director Barbara Ferrer said during a briefing Thursday in which she also urged continued vigilance against the spread of the virus — particularly during holiday gatherings.

“I do want to wish everyone a Happy New Year, and more than anything, a safe and healthy new year,” she said.

“We can kick off 2023 in a positive way by taking some common-sense precautions during upcoming celebrations. Before gathering or attending a large event, take a home COVID test before you head out. This is especially important if you’ve recently traveled or attended other gatherings. …

“I also want to continue to emphasize the importance of wearing high-quality, well-fitting masks during indoor events and activities. For those at higher risk, consider doing the same if you’re outdoors in a crowded space and in close proximity to a lot of people.”

L.A. County remained in the federal government’s “medium” transmission range, though Ferrer reported, “This past week there was an average of 192 (hospital) admissions per day, and that’s a slight increase from the 178 admissions per day one week ago.”

Ferrer stressed booster shots as a key means of reversing the hospitalization trend.

“With hospitalizations remaining elevated, given the effectiveness of the bivalent booster and anti-viral therapeutics at reducing severe illness that can lead to hospitalization and death, we urge the over 6 million residents not yet boosted to take advantage of easy and widespread access to the bivalent booster,” she said.

Ferrer also said the county is reporting an average of 15 virus deaths per day — which she called “a small but welcome decrease from the average of 21 deaths reported per day last week.”

“While any drop in COVID cases, hospitalizations or deaths is positive news, it’s still important to maintain perspective,” she added. “In mid-November, reported deaths and hospitalizations were about 50% of the current count, and COVID hospital admissions are still well above the peak of the summer surge.”

Thursday’s data brought L.A. County’s cumulative case total to 3,628,357, while the 25 additional deaths bring to county’s total to 34,643.

Thursday’s seven-day daily average of positive tests was 15.6% — up from 14.9% Wednesday.

COVID-related hospital admission rates have been falling in recent weeks after spiking upward during November. The hospitalizations figures fell enough this month for the county to move out of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “high” COVID activity category to “medium.”

Daily official case numbers are believed to be an undercount of actual infections, since many people rely on at-home tests without reporting the results, and many others don’t test at all.

Although case numbers have been falling in recent weeks, county health officials warned last week that “death rates … continue to climb in Los Angeles County, especially among older people.”

County health officials in recent weeks have urged residents to exercise caution during holiday celebrations and “layer” protections to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

Mask-wearing continues to be “strongly recommended” by the county at indoor public settings. But Ferrer said that even absent a mandate, residents should start wearing them, given the elevated rate of transmission.

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.

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