LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Ahead of Labor Day weekend, Los Angeles County is seeing its hospitalizations and case rates start to decline, but the 43 deaths reported Thursday are a stark reminder of the highly infectious nature of the delta variant and vaccination hurdles that remain.
The county continues to report relatively high daily numbers of deaths, as the 43 new fatalities reported due to COVID-19 bring the county's overall death toll from the pandemic to 25,364.
"Our reported numbers yesterday and today are higher and we fear continued losses that are particularly difficult to bear because they are all just about preventable," said L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer during an online media briefing Thursday.
After weeks of precipitous increases, L.A. County is beginning to see decreases in weekly COVID-19 case numbers, but due to the delta variant, Ferrer said she's hesitant to proclaim the worst of the latest coronavirus surge over.
"It's important to note we are seeing less transmission across the board in general, but because the delta variant is so capable of infecting lots of people, we still have very high numbers of people getting infected," Ferrer said. "And while in L.A. County, you look at our numbers and say we have tons and tons of people vaccinated... but we also have tons and tons of people that are unvaccinated - a very good reservoir for highly infectious variants."
While unvaccinated residents remain four to five times more likely to get infected with COVID-19 than their vaccinated counterparts, Ferrer noted that case numbers appear to have peaked and begun declining across most ethnic groups, even among the unvaccinated.
"The decline may be related to the implementation of additional layers of protection, including universal masking indoors, and also to increases in overall vaccination coverage, which reduces the number of people who are unvaccinated and also reduces the likelihood of people transmitting infections to others," Ferrer said.
County health officials advise Labor Day gatherings held with unvaccinated individuals be moved outdoors.
Meanwhile, COVID cases in California continue to rise. The California Department of Public Health says it's mostly among the unvaccinated whose case rate is 571% higher than those who have received the vaccines.
With the holiday travel weekend ahead, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a recommendation for unvaccinated individuals to stay home.
Dr. Anthony Fauci says it is likely Americans will soon need a third dose of the vaccines to be considered fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Fauci spoke at a White House briefing, saying a final determination would be made by the Food and Drug Administration and the CDC. However, the nation's top infections disease expert says his professional experience leads him to believe a third dose of mRNA vaccines will be required to provide long-term protection against the coronavirus.
City News Service and the Associated Press contributed to this report.