Today there is cautious optimism that the stabilizing COVID-19 case count, positivity rates and hospital admissions in Los Angeles County is signaling a reversal of a virus surge, but health officials cautioned that the numbers remain. dangerously high and virus transmission remains widespread.
“While it is too early to know if we are really seeing a decline in the surge, we are very hopeful that the actions taken by many are beginning to work,” said Barbara Ferrer, director of the Los Angeles County Health Department.
“Unfortunately, even as cases start to decline, these numbers are still very high, driven by overcrowding in hospitals and driving up the death toll.
“The reality for us is that COVID-19 is still rampant in our workplaces, in our neighborhoods and really in every corner of this county,” he said.
And while most metrics have been trending down over the past week, the death toll continues to rise, said Ferrer, who reported 262 more deaths from COVID-19 on Wednesday, while health department officials from Long Beach Health and Pasadena added five, bringing the county’s total for the entire pandemic to 14,416.
Ferrer said the county’s seven-day average of daily deaths was 179 on Jan.10, dropping to 174 on Jan.12. But the daily number soared to 262 on Wednesday: possibly as a result of the holiday weekend reporting delays.
The persistently high number of daily deaths in recent weeks is a result of the massive increase in hospitalizations the county experienced over the past month.
died, up from 12% in September and October. Health officials said the increase is not indicative of a decline in the quality of care, but rather the result of overwhelmed hospitals admitting only the sickest patients.
That move also contributed to the average hospital stay of patients, rising to more than nine days, up from less than seven in October.
But as deaths persist, the county has begun to see a daily drop in the number of new cases, along with drops in general hospitalizations and the test positivity rate.
Ferrer reported 6,492 new cases on Wednesday, the lowest total in weeks, though he said the number may be low due to reporting delays and unavailability of tests over the holiday weekend.
Ferrer said the county was averaging more than 15,000 new cases a day on Jan. 8, with the average falling to around 10,000 a week later.
The seven-day average rate of people testing positive for the virus was 14% as of Wednesday, up from more than 20% at the end of December. The average number of people hospitalized was more than 8,000 on January 5, falling to 7,383 on January 15. As of Wednesday, there were 7,263 people hospitalized in the county, according to state figures, including 1,692 in intensive care.
Ferrer stressed that although hospitalization figures have dropped, they are still dangerously high.
“So the end is not in sight yet,” he said. “With a high number of daily cases, hundreds more people will require hospitalizations each week.”
The 6,492 new cases reported Wednesday, along with 593 announced by Long Beach and 53 by Pasadena, increased the cumulative total countywide for the entire pandemic to 1,038,738.
Ferrer continued to ask for patience among people trying to make appointments for COVID-19 vaccines, noting that spaces are limited due to vaccine shortages. The designated website – vaccinatelacounty.com – is running again after briefly crashing Tuesday afternoon.
The county has also expanded the capacity of its call reservation which is available from 8 am to 8:30 pm at 833-540-0473.
Officials urged residents to use the calling system only if they cannot make appointments through the website.
Ferrer said Wednesday that the county expects to receive about 143,900 more doses of the vaccines next week. However, since people need to receive two doses of the drug, spaced three to four weeks apart, most of the vaccine that comes next week will be used to administer the second dose to people who have already received the first shot.
She estimated that only 37,900 of the doses to be received next week will be available for people to receive their first dose.
“This is what I mean by a serious supply problem,” he said. “We are simply not getting enough doses of vaccine to act as fast as you and we would like.”
He said that by the end of last week, the county had received 685,000 doses, with 307,000 used so far for the first dose and 87,000 for the second dose.
The county is still working to complete the vaccination of hundreds of thousands of healthcare workers with remaining doses, even as access to people 65 and older is expanded. The county received another 168,000 doses this week.
State officials have said it could take until summer to finish vaccinating all residents over 65.
Ferrer said Wednesday that there are 1.3 million people in Los Angeles County who are 65 and older, along with about 800,000 healthcare workers and residents and long-term care staff. So completing the two-dose vaccination of those people will require 4 million doses. As of this week, the county has only received about 853,000 doses in total.
With no change to the vaccine priority list, that means the rest of the county’s 10 million residents will be waiting months for a chance to get vaccinated.