LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Steadily rising hospitalization numbers have put Los Angeles County on the verge of moving into the "high" COVID activity level category, as defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer told the Board of Supervisors this week that the county is on pace to reach the "high" level as early as Thursday.
And if the county remains at the "high" level for two consecutive weeks, indoor mask-wearing will be required again.
As of Tuesday, more than 1,100 COVID patients were hospitalized in L.A. County
At emergency rooms and urgent cares across the Los Angeles metropolitan area, there has been a steady increase in patients seeking care for COVID-19.
"It does remain an elevated concern," Ferrer said
If admissions continue to pick up, a jump into the "high-risk" community level is predicted by Thursday.
"If L.A. County moves into the high community level and stays there for two weeks, indoor masking would expand to include all indoor public spaces," Ferrer said.
The projection is based on the increase of hospital admissions over the last two weeks. Adding to this, the quick rise of the highly transmissible BA.4 and BA.5 omicron subvariants accounting for nearly two-thirds of new COVID cases nationwide.
"These kinds of subvariants were always a possibility. We have been watching this virus evolve rapidly. We've been planning and preparing for this moment," said Dr. Ashish Jha, White House COVID Response Coordinator.
Jha said while variant-specific vaccines are expected to be available this fall, he said Americans should not wait to get caught up on their shots because even a recent infection is not enough to protect against the new variants.
"If you get vaccinated today, you're not going to be ineligible to get the variant-specific vaccine as we get into the fall and winter," he said.
While COVID deaths are rising at a much slower pace than previous surges, health officials warn when more people get infected, more people will die.
"We have already seen more deaths from COVID than we have seen annually from any other infectious diseases -- 557, and three times as many deaths from COVID as we saw on average during a pre-pandemic flu season," Ferrer said.
Ferrer added that the current BA.5 surge has not peaked yet. She's urging residents to use all the tools at their disposal masking, testing, therapeutics and getting caught up on COVID vaccinations.