Nearly 45,000 new coronavirus cases reported in L.A. County over the holiday weekend

A nurse walks inside the respiratory tent outside the emergency department at a hospital
Registered nurse Rafaela Ramirez walks inside the respiratory tent outside the emergency department at Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital in the Willowbrook neighborhood of Los Angeles last week.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles County continued to ride a wave of coronavirus infections through the holiday weekend, with one in five of those tested finding they have contracted the illness.

L.A. County recorded 23,553 new cases on Saturday and 21,200 more on Sunday, far above last winter’s peak average of 16,000 cases a day. Officials say the latest wave is fueled by a few factors, including increased travel, large holiday gatherings and the spread of the highly contagious Omicron variant.

County health officials urged residents to curtail higher-risk activities, such as indoor events where people are unmasked for long periods of time and crowded outdoor gatherings.


“Our hearts remain with those families experiencing the sorrow of losing those they love to COVID,” said Barbara Ferrer, the county’s director of public health. “During this surge, given the spread of a more infectious strain of the virus, lapses can lead to explosive transmission.”

With the spread of the outbreak outstripping last winter’s peaks, public health officials could take some solace in the fact that the now dominant Omicron variant remained less deadly than earlier strains of the coronavirus.

New school rules in L.A. County also lay out when testing is needed for close contacts to remain in class.

Jan. 2, 2022

Ferrer called well-fitted masks “essential” to keeping people healthy through the surge. She acknowledged that masks can be annoying and uncomfortable to some people but added “given that many infected individuals are spreading COVID 1-2 days before they are symptomatic, the physical barrier tendered by a mask is known to reduce the spread of virus particles.”

Actual case counts were likely even higher than those reported over the weekend, when numbers tend to be tamped down by undercounting, officials said. Still, the increased spread of the virus has been obvious; with 7,425 new cases on Wednesday, a number that more than tripled by Saturday.

Hospitalizations also rose sharply, from 904 two days after Christmas to 1,628 on Sunday. And the seven-day average rate of those testing positive also increased, from 14.9% on Monday to 21.8% by Sunday.