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Covid Doctor - photo courtesy of Pexels

The number of COVID-positive patients in Los Angeles County hospitals is holding steady, rising by eight people to 697, according to the latest state figures.

Of those patients hospitalized as of Saturday, 69 were being treated in intensive care, down from 70 the previous day.

COVID-19 infection and hospitalization rates held steady at a relatively low rate over the past week according to the county Department of Public Health, which reported 1,482 new cases and 22 additional virus-related deaths on Friday.

The county’s seven-day rate of new infections was 69 per 100,000 residents over the past week, roughly the same as the prior week. The seven-day virus-related hospital admission rate also held steady at 7 per 100,000 residents, according to the county.

The statistics remained flat despite the emergence of the XBB.1.5 strain of the virus as the most prevalent variant in the county, representing 32.8% of all samples that underwent specialized sequencing.

Health officials warned that the latest strain is more capable of causing infection, and they urged residents to continue being cautious to prevent spread of the illness.

“I continue to be encouraged by the COVID numbers we are seeing in LA County,” Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement. “Amidst the optimism, I know we all need to continue to support those who remain impacted by COVID-19, particularly residents who are older, immunocompromised, have disabilities, and those with many exposures during the course of their day. Care options, including free telehealth services, therapeutics, and vaccines are available and continued access remains our top priority.”

The 1,482 new infections reported Friday gave the county a cumulative total from throughout the pandemic of 3,687,409.

The daily case numbers released by the county’s Department of Public Health are undercounts of actual virus activity, due to people who use at-home tests and don’t report the results, and others who don’t test at all.

With 22 new virus-related fatalities, the county’s overall death toll rose to 35,425.

The majority of those who die with COVID-19 are elderly or have underlying health conditions such as diabetes, hearts disease or hypertension.

Masks are still required indoors at health-care and congregate-care facilities in the county, and for anyone exposed to the virus in the past 10 days, and at businesses where they are required by the owner. Masks are strongly recommended for high-risk individuals, and for people riding public transit.

For all other indoor settings, wearing masks is a matter of residents’ personal preference.

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