LA County health director warns against non-essential activities during COVID surge – NBC Los Angeles

Amid a dramatic increase in COVID-19 infections, the Los Angeles County Public Health Director has urged residents to avoid non-essential activities in the coming weeks, especially those taking place outside. indoors and involve mingling with unvaccinated or high-risk people.

Fueled by the omicron variant of COVID-19, the county is experiencing pandemic high levels of daily infection reports and the highest rate of virus transmission to date. The county reported 34,827 new infections on Tuesday, along with 15 additional deaths.

“While we’re in the wave, we ask that you exercise extra caution, even if you’re vaccinated and boosted,” Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said at Tuesday’s oversight board meeting. “One way to reduce transmission is to wear a high quality mask whenever you are around non-household members…We are also asking that over the next few weeks we all try to avoiding non-essential activities where people are unmasked and in close contact with others.”

“We know how important it is for our well-being to be together with friends,” she said. “We need to be sure that we are able to protect each other. The reality is that parties and events – especially those indoors with people who are unvaccinated or at high risk of serious illness – facilitate the spread of this virus. . Limiting our time with others to these more essential activities related to work or school is a prudent step that everyone should take whenever possible.”

“I know this is not the start of the new year that we all envisioned. With the additional tools we have, especially easy access to a free vaccine, we should be able to use different strategies to get through these trying times. As always though, it takes the cooperation of all of us to move forward with grace and ride through this wave.”

His comments came as state figures showed the number of COVID-positive patients in county hospitals stood at 3,766, up from 3,472 on Monday. The number of those patients in intensive care rose to 513, from 482 a day earlier.

Dr. Christina Ghaly, director of county health services, said that despite the increase in the number of patients, the Omicron-powered surge is proceeding differently in hospitals than previous surges. She said last fall about a third of COVID patients ended up in intensive care, but that number is only about 10% to 15% this time around, at least in the four hospitals run by the county, which likely reflects conditions in other medical care. centers.

She also said about 40% of COVID-positive patients at county hospitals were admitted specifically because of the virus, while the rest were not told they had been infected until they were admitted for something else. . In the last surge, 80-90% of COVID patients were admitted due to virus-related illness.

Staffing shortages have forced hospitals to cancel or postpone elective surgeries. Report by Gordon Tokumatsu on January 11, 2022.

Ghaly said that despite the changes and numbers that still overshadow last winter’s surge – when more than 8,000 COVID patients were hospitalized – current staffing shortages are creating more critical conditions in hospitals.

She pointed to the large number of healthcare workers who have retired or moved
in non-frontline positions. She also noted that the surge in COVID infections has also impacted healthcare workers, leaving many of them unavailable to work due to illness or exposure.

The situation has also resulted in longer ambulance response times, in part due to the large number of private ambulance company workers who have failed to meet COVID vaccination requirements, leaving them unable to work, combined with a large number of people calling in sick.

The time it takes paramedics to offload patients at hospitals has also increased, she said, due to staffing and space issues. Ghaly said three area hospitals — Mission Community Hospital in Panorama City, Little Company of Mary in San Pedro and Antelope Valley Hospital — have all set up surge units to help manage the surge in patients.

Ferrer again pointed out that while the omicron variant is easily able to infect vaccinated people, injections still prove effective in preventing infected people from ending up in hospital.

She said unvaccinated people are nine times more likely to be hospitalized than fully vaccinated people and 38 times more likely to be hospitalized than fully vaccinated people who received a booster shot.

The 34,827 new COVID cases announced Tuesday brought the county’s cumulative total to 2,046,208 since the start of the pandemic. The 15 deaths gave the county an overall death toll of 27,812.

Health officials have previously said about 90% of people who die of COVID-19 have underlying health conditions. Of the 13 deaths reported Monday, nine had underlying conditions, according to the county’s public health department.

The county’s rolling average rate of people testing positive for the virus was 21% on Tuesday, down slightly from 21.4% on Monday and up from 20.6% on Sunday and 20.9% on Saturday. The rate was below 1% in November.

According to county figures released last week, of more than 6.4 million fully vaccinated people in the county, 199,314 have tested positive for the virus, for a rate of 3.1%, while 3,348 have been tested. hospitalized, for a rate of 0.05%. A total of 625 fully vaccinated people died, a rate of 0.01%.

Ferrer said Tuesday that as of Jan. 6, 80% of eligible county residents ages 5 and older had received at least one dose of the vaccine, while 71% were fully vaccinated. Of the county’s total population of 10.3 million, 76% have received at least one dose and 68% are fully immunized.

Michelle J. Kelley