LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Los Angeles County residents may see masks make a comeback at indoor public places within the next few weeks.
L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer again estimated that the county could move into the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's "high" virus activity category by late June. If the county remains in the "high" category for two straight weeks, the county will re-impose a universal indoor mask-wearing mandate, she said.
The county is currently in the CDC's "medium" level of COVID activity. It will move into the "high" category if its average daily rate of new COVID-related hospital admissions rises above 10 per 100,000 residents, or if the percentage of staffed hospital beds occupied by COVID-positive patients tops 10%.
Health officials say cases would have to decline significantly in the next week in order to stay in the "medium" category, but what's really driving the move to a higher level is the steady rise in hospitalizations.
This past week, about 83 people a day were admitted to L.A. County hospitals, a rate which is 90% higher than a month ago. If residents continue to see an increase in hospitalizations, Ferrer predicts indoor masking will return.
"The current estimate has us reaching that 'high' community level threshold by the end of June. Should there be a change in the rate of increase among hospital admissions, the date could be earlier or the date could be later," she said.
Nationally this week, about 2,000 Americans have died due to the virus. In L.A. County, COVID deaths remain stable at about seven per day.
"And that likely reflects the power of our vaccines, our boosters and our therapeutics," Ferrer said.
On Wednesday, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory endorsed COVID-19 vaccines for children under 5.
Pfizer's vaccine, a three shot series, is one-tenth the size of the adult dose. The company's early data showed it was 80% effective in preventing symptomatic COVID.
Moderna's two-shot vaccine is a quarter of the size of the adult dose.
Early data showed it was 40 to 50% effective at preventing mild infections.
Both vaccines generated antibody levels against the omicron variant similar to those seen in adults.
"We should be paying attention also to the antibody response and how well these vaccines protect against severe illness and hospitalization," said Dr. Alok Patel with Stanford Children's Health.
On Friday, a CDC advisory panel will start reviewing the data from Pfizer and Moderna, and will vote on its recommended use. So far, states have pre-ordered 3.8 million doses of vaccines for the youngest kids. It's a move that will pre-position them so they can be available by next Tuesday.
"This virus is changing and we need to keep up with it," said White House Chief Advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci.
Sounding quite well despite a COVID-positive diagnosis, Fauci testified on Capitol Hill as the battle to secure funding for new-generation vaccines and therapeutics continues.
Fauci also discussed the importance of booster shots in minimizing symptoms if infected with the latest subvariants.
He had received two booster shots prior to testing positive.
City News Service contributed to this report.