With a holiday weekend upon us, Los Angeles County health officials are urging residents to mark Memorial Day with caution to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“As we celebrate Memorial Day this Monday, I’d like to extend my gratitude to all of our armed forces members and their families who have dedicated their lives to protecting us through their military service,” county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement issued Friday.
“Many of us will attend events or host gatherings honoring these courageous men and women this long weekend,” she continued. “Regardless of how you plan to spend the holiday, we ask that you reduce the chance of getting or spreading COVID-19 by taking advantage of four powerful tools — vaccinations, masking, testing, and therapeutics.”
The urging came amid rising infection numbers and steadily increasing virus-related hospitalization figures. The county reported 5,800 new cases and eight more COVID-related deaths Friday, raising the cumulative totals from throughout the pandemic to 2,961,673 and 32,117.
The average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus was 4.3% as of Friday, up from 4.1% Thursday.
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health does not report COVID data on weekends.
Meanwhile, the number of COVID-positive patients in Los Angeles County hospitals rose by nine people to 464, according to the latest state figures on Saturday. The number of those patients being treated in intensive care was 56, up from 55 on Friday.
Health officials have noted that many COVID-positive patients were admitted to hospitals for reasons other than the virus. But Ferrer said Thursday those patients still require advanced levels of care that put added stress on hospitals.
“They require a lot of different resources that are of higher intensity, so that in and of itself is more strain on the system,” she said.
Ferrer announced Thursday that increasing case number across the county have led to a rise in virus outbreaks at skilled nursing facilities, prompting some tighter infection-control measures.
Staff at nursing facilities are now required to wear N95-level masks at all times and undergo twice-weekly testing, while residents must undergo weekly testing. All communal dining has also been halted, and all non-essential indoor group activities are being paused.
Los Angeles County remains in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “medium” category of virus activity. Under CDC guidelines, counties in the “medium” category will move to “high” if the rate of new virus-related hospital admissions reaches 10 per 100,000 residents, or if 10% of the county’s staffed hospital beds are occupied by COVID-positive patients.
Ferrer said the county’s current rate of virus-related hospital admissions is now 4.5 per 100,000 — double the rate from a month ago — and the rate of staffed beds occupied by COVID patients is currently 2.3%.
While those numbers are well below the “high” category level, Ferrer noted that “if we continue on the current trajectory, we could find cases and hospitalizations end up exerting stress on our hospital system in just a few weeks.”