COVID in LA County: New infections drop, but deaths rise, officials call it sign of what could come

Plus, the average number of daily deaths has doubled in the past two weeks.

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Friday, December 16, 2022
COVID in LA County: New infections drop, but deaths rise
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It's a major concern for health officials: despite a recent drop in cases, Los Angeles County is reporting a jump in the number of COVID-19 infections of more than 100% in the past month.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- It's a major concern for health officials: despite a recent drop in cases, Los Angeles County is reporting a jump in the number of COVID-19 infections of more than 100% in the past month.

Plus, the average number of daily deaths has doubled in the past two weeks.

L.A. County remains in the "high'' COVID activity category with an average daily new case rate of 204 per 100,000 residents. We could go back to the "medium" level if that number drops below 200 per 100,000 residents.

That, however, depends on us.

L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer credits a 7% drop in daily hospital admissions to COVID medications and booster shots, which can significantly reduce serious illness. Yet in the big picture, hospital bed space remains a critical concern.

"The average number of available beds so far in December is the lowest we have seen in the past four years," Ferrer said.

Officials said this could be due to the high number of people who have delayed care and a shortage of healthcare workers needed to staff beds. She said taking action now could make a big difference in the coming weeks, especially since pediatric bed space is limited and could drop rapidly.

"Everyone is encouraged to take steps to curb transmission of respiratory viruses, and that includes masking in indoor public spaces and staying home when you're sick," she said.

Ferrer reported an average of 16 deaths per day. A troubling increase from the average of eight deaths reported per day two weeks ago.

"Experience does tell us that deaths are a lagging indicator, and we're concerned about the possibility of seeing even higher increases in these numbers a few weeks from now," said Ferrer.

This week also marks the 20th pediatric death from COVID in L.A. County, although officials did not release any more details.

Despite a decline in cases in the last few days, Ferrer said the number of new infections is up about 120% since a month ago.

"Cases are severely under counted with home tests and people who may not test. Transmission is certainly greater than the case count alone indicates," she said.

Mask-wearing continues to be "strongly recommended'' by the county at indoor public settings, but Ferrer said even though it's not mandated, residents should start wearing them given the elevated rate of transmission.

Ferrer said while she has seen an uptick this week in people over 65 getting the updated booster, the group that has the fewest people receiving the shot are those 18 to 49 years old.