Wave Wire Services
LOS ANGELES — Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Los Angeles, has announced she has tested positive for COVID-19 for a second time, saying she was tested after learning of a possible exposure during last week’s Summit of the Americas in downtown Los Angeles.
“After learning of a potential exposure at the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, I was notified that I tested positive for COVID,” Waters said in a statement June 14. “I am currently isolating and have no symptoms. I am following all protocols as recommended by the Office of the Attending Physician and CDC (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidance.
“I am grateful to be fully vaccinated and to have received two booster shots. If you haven’t received the vaccine and/or booster, I encourage you to do so. I am feeling fine and resting at home.”
Details of her exposure during the Summit of the Americas were not released.
Hundreds of dignitaries from across the Western Hemisphere took part in the summit, which was hosted by President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — who also attended the summit — announced he had tested positive for COVID-19 June 13. He met with Biden in Los Angeles June 9, and also held a news conference with Gov. Gavin Newsom.
The infections were the second for both Waters and Trudeau. Waters tested positive for the virus in April, and Trudeau had a positive test in January.
Both are fully vaccinated.
They bouts with COVID come as infections continue to rise and hospitalization numbers increase. County health officials are once again urging residents to don masks before they become mandatory — which could happen by month’s end.
“This may not be a pandemic that ends,” county Supervisor Sheila Kuehl said June 14. “It may simply continue to shift and change and we will live with it one way or another, primarily by vaccination and probably masking. But I think people really want to think the whole thing is over, and that’s not helpful to the numbers.”
Kuehl noted that many indoor businesses — notably movie theaters — are no longer requiring masks, but said companies should consider mandating face coverings, given the county’s high rate of virus transmission.
“If we can sort of advertise ‘this ain’t over,’ and it’s probably better for your business if you help people be protected,” she said. “That may be the message we want to give.”
Supervisor Kathryn Barger echoed that sentiment, saying the county should make it clear to businesses that they have the right to require workers and customers to wear masks.
“Businesses can require that in order to come into my establishment, we want you to wear a mask,” she said.
County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said that if the rate of COVID hospitalization numbers continues rising at the pace it has for the past two weeks, the county would move into the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “high” virus activity category by late June. Ferrer said that if the county remains in the “high” category for two straight weeks, the county will reimpose a universal indoor mask-wearing mandate.
But she said there’s no reason people should wait to start wearing masks again.
“I do want to encourage everybody to use your masks now,” Ferrer said. “We don’t have to wait until things get much worse.”
Masks are still mandatory in high-risk settings such as health care facilities, aboard transit vehicles and in transit centers and airports, in correctional facilities and at long-term care facilities.
The county is currently in the CDC’s “medium” level of COVID activity. It will move into the “high” category if its average daily rate of new COVID-related hospital admissions rises above 10 per 100,000 residents, or if the percentage of staffed hospital beds occupied by COVID-positive patients tops 10%.
The figures have both been slowly rising over the past several weeks, with the rate of new admissions reaching 7.2 per 100,000 residents as of June 14, up from 6.4 June 9. The portion of hospital beds in the county occupied by virus patients was 3.3%.
According to state figures, there were 579 COVID-positive patients in county hospitals The number of those patients being treated in intensive care was 60.
Health officials have noted that many COVID-positive patients were actually admitted to hospitals for a reason other than the virus, and often they only learned they were infected upon admission.
Ferrer told the county Board of Supervisors June 14 that current countywide hospital figures show that 40% of COVID-positive patients are being treated specifically for COVID. The other 60% were admitted for other reasons.
She has noted, however, that all virus-positive patients require extra infection-control measures at hospitals, regardless of the reason they were admitted.
The county reported 3,310 new COVID cases June 14, raising the overall total from throughout the pandemic to 3,041,815. Another nine virus-related fatalities were reported, giving the county a cumulative death toll of 32,227.
The average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus was 5.5%.
Ferrer noted that the positivity rate is likely to increase in the coming weeks, since many schools — which account for a large portion of the weekly COVID tests in the county — are out of session for the summer.
“The concern with the rapidity of emerging highly infectious variants is that for each new variant, we need to reassess how much the new strain evades vaccine protection, causes severe illness, and avoids detection with current tests,” Ferrer said. “And to be dominant, the new strains are likely to be even more infectious than the previous strains. Until we have a more precise understanding of how the new viral strains interact with us and our community, we need to remain vigilant and cautious.
“This includes layering protections to keep those most vulnerable as safe as possible, including wearing masks indoors, getting tested before gathering or attending events, and staying home if you are sick.”