As federal health officials recommended Wednesday that all vaccinated Americans get COVID-19 booster shots, Los Angeles County saw another increase in the number of patients hospitalized with the coronavirus, while infections among the homeless have also ticked upward.
There were 1,790 COVID patients in county hospitals Wednesday, according to state figures, up from 1,754 on Tuesday. There were also 406 people being treated in intensive care, up from 397 the previous day.
The county Department of Public Health confirmed 34 new COVID-19 deaths on Wednesday, lifting the overall death toll from the virus to 24,967. Another 4,046 cases were confirmed, giving the county a cumulative total from throughout the pandemic of 1,359,672.
The rolling average rate of people testing positive for the virus in the county was 3.6% as of Wednesday, up slightly from 3.5% on Tuesday.
County health officials said the number of homeless people becoming infected with the virus has jumped over the past month, mirroring a trend in the community as a whole. According to the Department of Public Health, the county had been reporting less than 30 cases among the homeless per week between late February and mid-July. But this week, the county verified 185 new cases, although 71 of them actually occurred in previous weeks but have just been confirmed as occurring among the homeless.
Throughout the pandemic, 7,996 homeless people in the county have been infected with the virus, and 218 have died.
“We have a very large population of people experiencing homelessness in L.A. County, and the availability of emergency, interim and permanent housing remains a priority, particularly during this long duration pandemic,” Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement. “People experiencing homelessness are at high risk of severe COVID-19 disease due to underlying health conditions, age, or both.
“As we partner with others to reach people experiencing homelessness that are not yet vaccinated, layering protection at programs serving this population is critical. This includes offering isolation and quarantine facilities for those positive for COVID-19 and for those close contacts to positive cases who are unsheltered. As with previous surges, our strategies for reducing transmission must focus on those at high risk who are without adequate resources,” she said.
As expected, federal health officials Wednesday recommended that all vaccinated Americans get booster shots eight months after they become fully vaccinated. That amounts to a third dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine — and “likely” an additional dose for people who received the one-dose Johnson & Johnson shot.
Those shots are expected to become available beginning the week of Sept. 20, according to a joint statement Wednesday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Heath and Human Services.
The county over the weekend began offering third doses of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID vaccines to people with compromised immune systems. Health officials urged people to consult their doctors to confirm their eligibility for the third shot, which should be administered at least 28 days following the second dose.
On Wednesday, the CDC and HHS said data “make very clear” that protection against SARS-CoV-2 infection begins to decrease over time following the initial doses of vaccination — which prompted their recommendation of booster shots for all.
“Based on our latest assessment, the current protection against severe disease, hospitalization and death could diminish in the months ahead, especially among those who are at higher risk or were vaccinated during the earlier phases of the vaccination rollout,” the agencies said. “For that reason, we conclude that a booster shot will be needed to maximize vaccine-induced protection and prolong its durability.”
Continued spread of the highly infectious Delta variant of COVID-19 prompted county health officials late Monday to issue a new health order that will require all attendees at outdoor “mega-events” with 10,000 or more people to wear face masks. The rule, which takes effect at 11:59 p.m. Thursday, will affect sporting events such as Dodgers, Rams and Chargers game, along with LAFC and Galaxy soccer matches.
The mask-wearing requirement will apply to all attendees, regardless of vaccination status.
Meanwhile, the state on Wednesday issued a directive requiring all attendees at indoor “mega-events” of 1,000 people or more to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test within 72 hours of the event.