New coronavirus cases top 1,000 mark for four straight days

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Wave Wire Services

LOS ANGELES — For the fourth day in a row, the number of new COVID-19 infections reported in Los Angeles County topped 1,000 July 12, as health officials also noted an uptick in outbreaks and urged adherence to infection-control measures at workplaces.

Traditionally, daily COVID numbers have been dramatically low on Sundays and Mondays due to lags in reporting test results from the weekend, meaning the infection numbers are likely larger than the numbers being released by the county. The county still reported 2,172 new cases over the two days.

The new cases lifted the cumulative countywide number of infections since the pandemic began to 1,258,685. The county reported one additional death on Monday, raising the pandemic death toll to 24,543.

According to state figures, there were 376 people hospitalized in the county due to COVID, up slightly from 372 the day before. There were 85 people in intensive care. 

The rolling seven-day average rate of people testing positive for the virus was 2.8%, well above the 0.3% rate from mid-June.

The recent surge in infections — which officials say are occurring almost exclusively among unvaccinated people — is blamed in large part on the highly contagious “Delta” variant of the COVID virus. The variant, which caused rampant infections across India and other parts of the world, is spreading in the United States and locally, passing more easily from person to person and carrying the potential for more severe illness.

Combining the large number of unvaccinated residents in the county — around 4 million — with the lifting of COVID health restrictions on gatherings and indoor capacity, health officials said there are far more opportunities for those residents to become infected.

With more infections come more outbreaks in residential and workplace settings. According to the county Department of Public Health, the agency was investigating 55 ongoing outbreaks, which are considered a cluster of three or more cases. The 55 outbreaks is up 25% from the 44 being investigated a month ago.

Health officials called the increase “concerning,” but noted the number is still well below the 1,130 outbreak investigations that were reported in mid-February at the height of the winter COVID surge.

But in response to the uptick, health officials again stressed that the best protection against the virus and the “Delta” variant is to get vaccinated. They also urged strict adherence to infection-control measures at workplaces, where unvaccinated workers are required to wear masks while indoors or in vehicles.

Employers also must make high-quality respirator masks, such as the N95 masks, available to unvaccinated workers. Employers also must report any cluster of three or more worksite COVID-19 cases to the Department of Public  Health.

“Over 99% of the COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths we are seeing are among unvaccinated individuals,” county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement. “Of the cases reported [July 12], nearly 87% were under 50 years old. The COVID-19 vaccines are the most effective and important tool to reduce COVID-19 transmission and the spread of variants like the highly transmissible Delta variant. 

“Getting fully vaccinated is the way we protect you, your family and our community from COVID-19 and the Delta variant,” she added.

In hopes of encouraging more people to get vaccinated, the county is continuing to offer incentives. Through July 15, anyone who gets vaccinated at sites operated by the county, the city of Los Angeles or St. John’s Well Child and Family Center will be entered for a chance to win one of seven concert ticket prizes, including box seats at the Hollywood Bowl and tickets to Staples Center concerts including Celine Dion, Grupo Firma, Luke Bryan, Kane Brown and Dan+Shay.

According to the most recent figures from the Department of Public Health, among county residents age 16 and older, 69% have received at least one dose of vaccine, and 60% are fully vaccinated. The rate among Black residents, however, is only 45% with at least one dose, compared to 54% for Latino residents, 65% for white residents and 76% for Asians. 

Vaccination rates continue to be especially low among younger Black residents, with only 28% of those aged 18-29 vaccinated.

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