COVID-19 hospitalizations up slightly in LA County; 3,000 new cases reported


The number of COVID-19-positive patients in Los Angeles County hospitals rose slightly on Wednesday, Dec. 21, while the county reported another 3,080 new infections and 23 more virus-related deaths.

According to state figures, there were 1,274 COVID-positive patients in county hospitals as of Wednesday, up from 1,251 on Tuesday. Of those patients, 152 were being treated in intensive care units.

Health officials have estimated that roughly 40% of patients with the virus were admitted for actual COVID-related ailments, while others were hospitalized for other reasons, with many only learning they were infected upon admission.

The county has been closely monitoring hospital figures as it weighs whether to re-impose a universal indoor mask-wearing mandate.

The 3,080 new infections reported Wednesday gave the county a cumulative total from throughout the pandemic of 3,609,228. Official case numbers released by the county are known to be undercounts of actual virus activity, since many people rely on at-home tests or don’t test at all.

With 23 new deaths, the county’s overall virus-related death toll rose to 34,515.

The seven-day average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus was 11.4% as of Wednesday, up from 10.4% a week ago.

County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer has said previously the county would reinstitute a mask-wearing mandate if the county remains in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “high” virus-activity category and meets two hospital thresholds:

— if the rate of daily hospital admissions tops 10 per 100,000 residents; and

— if the percent of staffed hospital beds occupied by COVID patients tops 10%.

The county’s daily hospital admission rate was 14 per 100,000 as of last Thursday, while the percent of staffed hospital beds occupied by COVID patients was 7.2%.

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The county’s rate of new infections, however, has leveled off and even fallen in recent weeks, potentially allowing the county to fall out of the “high” virus-activity category and back to “medium.” Being in the “high” category requires an average daily new case rate of 200 per 100,000 residents or more. As of last Thursday, that rate had fallen to 204 per 100,000.

The CDC updates its figures and activity categories every Thursday.

Mask wearing continues to be “strongly recommended” by the county at indoor public settings. But Ferrer said that even absent a mandate, residents should start wearing them, given the elevated rate of transmission.

Masks are still required indoors at health-care and congregate-care facilities, for anyone exposed to the virus in the past 10 days, and at businesses where they are required by the owner.

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