Hospital - Photo courtesy of Robert Linder on Unsplash

Even as the infectious BA.2 subvariant of COVID-19 continues spreading, the number of coronavirus-positive hospital patients in Los Angeles County sank again Friday.

According to state figures, there were 228 COVID-positive patients in county hospitals as of Friday, down from 239 a day earlier. Of those patients, 31 were being treated in intensive care, down from 32 on Thursday.

Hospital numbers have remained low in the county, despite steadily rising COVID infection rates. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Thursday the county is averaging more than 1,000 new COVID cases per day, up from an average of 878 the previous week.

The county reported 1,355 new cases on Friday.

The BA.2 subvariant, a more infectious offshoot of the Omicron variant that caused a winter surge in cases, is now the dominant strain of the virus in the county, believed to be representing 67% of new infections.

While the rising case numbers haven’t yet translated to a spike in hospitalizations and deaths, health officials continued Friday to press for more people to get vaccinated or to receive booster shots — warning that the more the virus spreads, the higher the risk it could mutate into a more dangerous form.

“The emergence of the BA.2 subvariant is an important reminder that the more infections we have, the more chances there are for new variants to emerge, which is another reason why it remains important to take safety precautions,” Ferrer said in a statement. “We should all try our best to lower the risk to ourselves, family members, neighbors, and communities from COVID-19. This is especially critical if you’re at increased risk for severe illness. Those with higher levels of risk should take more precautions, including considering always wearing a mask in indoor public settings, being strategic about attending indoor gatherings or events, especially if you don’t know other people’s vaccination status, getting tested before and after gatherings, and getting vaccinated or boosted if you haven’t done so already.”

The 1,355 new cases reported Friday gave the county an official cumulative total of 2,850,480, although Ferrer on Thursday cited a recent study suggesting actual infection numbers are likely much higher, primarily due to people who don’t get tested or don’t report home-test results to the county.

Another 13 virus-related deaths were also reported Friday, lifting the cumulative death toll to 31,852.

Rising along with daily case numbers is the average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus. That rate had been holding steady below 1%, but it rose to 1.7% on Thursday and hit 2.4% Friday. The rate is still low overall, but roughly triple the rate it was two weeks ago.

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