New Covid Cases In Los Angeles Hit Highest Level Since September 1; “Many More Cases Over A Short Period Of Time” Expected

Los Angeles recorded 2,275 new cases of Covid-19 on Thursday, the highest daily mark since 2,370 on September 1, according to the county’s dashboard.

Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said that today was the first time “in a while” that cases topped 2,000 in a single day. In fact, it’s been a little over two weeks. On November 29 the region recorded 2,038 new cases. Before that, the mark hadn’t been breached since early September.

The number of Covid-related hospitalizations has also risen to 770. That’s up about 100 patients from a week ago and roughly 200 above the from late November count. Of those patients, 182 were in intensive care, up from 179 on Wednesday. There were an additional 20 deaths associated with the virus.

The 7-day average test positivity rate rose 41% in the past week from 1.2% to 1.7%.

The big concern is, of course the more transmissible Omicron variant, which is spreading in Los Angeles.

Meanwhile, Ferrer said 12 new cases related to Omicron were reported today. That brings the total to 30.

On Tuesday, the total was 15, meaning the number has doubled in the past two days. Less than a week before that, on December 8, Los Angeles had identified just 4 cases. The first case of the new variant was discovered in L.A. on December 1.

In Britain, where the first known cases date to November 27, officials have warned of a “tidal wave” of infections associated with the variant. That country’s number of cases related to the variant have been doubling every two days for some time.

Of the 30 L.A. Omicron cases, 24 were seen in fully vaccinated people, four of whom had booster shots.

Ferrer added that there is no evidence to suggest that the new variant causes more severe symptoms than previous versions — but it is more transmissible than other variants.

According to a University of Hong Kong study released Wednesday, Omicron infects people around 70 times faster than the currently dominant Delta variant and the original Covid strain, though the severity of illness is likely to be much lower.

“Based on the data collected to date, we anticipate that Omicron will circulate more widely in L.A. County in the very near future, leading to many more cases over a short period of time, particularly given increased gatherings with travel over the winter holiday,” Ferrer said.

“Unvaccinated individuals appear to remain at the highest risk, but all the evidence to date indicates that those fully vaccinated are also at increased risk, particularly for getting infected and infecting others.”

Ferrer said vaccines, while somewhat effective against Omicron, are not as effective as they are against the Delta variant. Currently available vaccines are 30%-40% effective against Omicron, and 70%-75% effective with a booster shot, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

Health officials today announced stepped-up efforts to combat the pandemic, including new rules for attending large events. Beginning Friday anyone attending indoor or outdoor mega-events in the county who cannot provide
proof of full vaccination is required to provide proof of a negative Covid test within one day (if it’s an antigen test) or two days (if it’s a PCR test) of the event.

Children under age 2 are exempt from the rule for indoor events, and children under 5 are exempt for outdoor events. This is a change from the previous health order, which required proof of a negative test within 72 hours.

The county defines mega-events as indoor gatherings of more than 1,000 people or outdoor events of more than 10,000 people.

The county also is changing its health officer isolation order to emphasize the need for cases to identify their close contacts during contact tracing to better manage outbreaks.

Of the county’s 10.3 million residents, 66% are fully vaccinated.

City News Service contributed to this report.

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