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L.A. County reports more than 4,000 new coronavirus cases, attributed in part to increased testing

A boy and his mother, both masked, stand in front of a mural
First-grader Daniel Cano, 5, and his mother, Sonia Cano, listen to doctors talk about COVID-19 safety precautions at an L.A. Unified “meet and greet” with its medical advisors on July 26.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles County health officials on Saturday reported 4,283 new coronavirus cases, the largest daily number reported in months and which public health officials attributed to the continued high rates of transmission of the Delta variant and significant increases in testing.

Although Department of Public Health officials expressed concern for the increasing case numbers, they cautioned that some of it could be attributed to more adults and children headed back to work and school and getting screened for the virus.

“Routine testing programs are increasing at businesses and schools in L.A. County,” officials said in a statement. “As a result of increased screening testing programs, there will be quicker identification of asymptomatic people infected with COVID-19.”

County officials said the latest surge is showing signs, maybe not of letting up, but of leveling off somewhat. The daily test positivity rate on Saturday was 4.7%, a small decrease from last week’s rate of 6.3%. The daily positivity rate is defined as the percentage of all coronavirus tests reported that are positive, officials said.

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Though it’s still early, Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said there are promising signs that the county’s order issued in mid-July requiring everyone, even those who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, to wear masks in indoor public spaces may be having the intended effect.

“It’s hard to say with 100% certainty that this was the factor that tipped us to have a slightly better slowing of spread than other places, but I know for sure it contributed, just because the data [are] really conclusive on the importance of masking indoors and how that does, in fact, reduce transmission,” Ferrer said.

The county also reported an additional 13 deaths related to COVID-19 on Saturday. Of those 13 reported deaths, three people were older than 80, four were between 65 and 79, four were between 50 and 64, and two people were between 30 and 49.

To date, officials have identified 1,323,345 COVID-19 cases countywide and 24,769 deaths since the pandemic began.

More than 1,380 people are being treated in hospitals for the coronavirus, 22% of them in the intensive care unit, officials said. The public health department did not provide data on how many had been vaccinated before their hospitalization.

The hospitalization rate is also increasing among unvaccinated people, while remaining very low among those who have received the vaccine, health officials said.

Officials continue to stress that vaccination is the best way to avoid serious illness and hospitalization.

“While indoor masking and quarantine and isolation of cases and close contacts are effective strategies for reducing transmission, the quickest way to slow the spread is to increase vaccination coverage,” Ferrer said.

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Hundreds of locations across L.A. County continue to offer the vaccines at no cost to residents, regardless of their immigration status or whether they have insurance coverage.

Ferrer said she was heartened on Saturday while working at the Obregon Park vaccination clinic to see several teenagers coming to get vaccinated, which will help ensure schools can safely reopen.

Many young people, ages 12 to 17, remain unvaccinated in the Antelope Valley and in the south central region of the county, officials said. In Lancaster, only 36% of youth had received at least one dose as of last Sunday, and in Acton, only 30%. The numbers were somewhat better in Palmdale, with 49% of youth ages 12 to 17 having received at least one dose of the vaccine.

In Compton, only 38% of youth had received at least one dose. The city of Carson saw somewhat better numbers, 56% of youth, according to health department data.

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Overall, almost 6 million of L.A. County’s 8.3 million residents eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations had received at least one dose as of Aug. 1, health data show. Of those 6 million, almost 5.3 million were fully vaccinated.

Among residents 65 and older, 79% have been fully vaccinated.

“Given the overwhelming evidence of the safety and efficacy of the three vaccines used in the United States, and the threat these high rates of transmission present to our recovery, the time is now for everyone eligible to get vaccinated,” Ferrer said.


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