COVID hospitalizations begin leveling off in county

Wave Wire Services

LOS ANGELES — After weeks of steady increases, the number of people hospitalized in Los Angeles County due to COVID-19 appeared to be leveling off, with an increase of only two patients Aug. 23 following four days of declines.

According to state figures, there were 1,724 COVID-positive patients in Los Angeles County hospitals, up from 1,722 Aug. 22. The number of patients being treated in intensive care units, however, continued climbing, reaching 454, up from 439 Aug. 22.

The county reported seven new COVID deaths along with 2,331 cases. Statistics released on Monday tend to be artificially low due to delays in reporting from the weekend.

The new fatalities lifted the county’s overall death toll due to COVID to 25,078. Since the pandemic began, the county has confirmed 1,385,505 infections.

The rolling average rate of people testing positive for the virus was 2.8%, down from 3.4% a week ago.

Over the weekend, county health officials released statistics aimed at encouraging people to get vaccinated against COVID. According to the county, as of Aug. 7, unvaccinated adults between 18 and 49 years old were 25 times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 than vaccinated adults of the same age. Meanwhile, unvaccinated adults over age 50 were nearly a dozen times more likely to be hospitalized than their vaccinated counterparts, and 17 times more likely to die, according to the county.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave full approval Aug. 23 to the Pfizer vaccine. It was the first of the three U.S. vaccines to receive such approval. All three versions of the vaccine have been in circulation under an “emergency use” authorization from the FDA.

The COVID-19 vaccine is safe and remains the most powerful tool we have to both lower our risk of infection and protect against serious illness and death from COVID-19, if infected,” county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said. “The other tools to help reduce and prevent transmission are wearing a mask, keeping your distance, avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces, and washing your hands frequently.

We are grateful to the many scientists and researchers who have worked tirelessly to develop and evaluate the vaccines during the most challenging public health crisis of our lifetime. We are also grateful to the FDA for their thoughtful analyses and review processes to ensure that we can have the highest confidence that the vaccine is safe and effective. I hope the milestone of this vaccine’s full approval gives those that were waiting to get vaccinated the confidence to now take this important step.”

The latest figures show that 73% of county residents age 12 and over have received at least one dose of vaccine, and 63% are fully vaccinated. Among residents aged 65 and older, 90% have received at least one dose, and 80% are fully vaccinated.

The health department reminded residents Aug. 20 about the need to get tested if they develop symptoms or were exposed to the virus — even if they are fully vaccinated. Those people should also isolate from others while awaiting test results, according to the county.

The county also urged people to cooperate with contact-tracers, who reach out to those who test positive or have been exposed. The contact-tracing process is considered crucial to identifying people who may have been exposed to the virus without their knowledge, and to containing potential outbreaks.

Contact tracers can also provide information about isolation and quarantine and how to access services and providers.

County health officials also are taking another look at COVID-19 safety rules for youth sports, just days after posting guidelines that mandated weekly testing for players and staff, regardless of vaccination status, and required mask-wearing during indoor athletic events.

The county Department of Public Health posted youth sports guidelines on its website Aug. 20, including the testing mandate for “moderate risk” and “high-risk” sports. Those include baseball, dodgeball, flag football, lacrosse, field hockey, softball, volleyball, basketball, boxing, football, hockey, rugby, soccer and wrestling.

By Aug. 23, however, the guidelines had been removed from the county’s website, apparently undergoing further revision. It was unclear what changes might be made, or when a new version of the rules might be released.

The previously released rules called for weekly testing for all athletes and staff, with twice-weekly testing “strongly recommended” for those who are unvaccinated. The rules also required all participants to be tested within 48 hours of any “inter-team” competition, with results available before the game begins.

For indoor sports, participants, coaches and spectators would be required to wear masks. Athletes would be required to wear masks while taking part in any indoor sports, removing them only temporarily to eat or drink.

Athletes in water sports such as swimming or water polo could remove their masks while in the water.

Given the increase in community transmission of COVID-19 and the predominance of the more easily spread Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus, masking indoors, regardless of vaccination status, is essential to slowing the spread of COVID-19 in the community,” the county’s guidelines said.

“The Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus spreads more easily than strains of the virus that circulated in L.A. in the past.”