Public Health Monitors Small Signs of Increasing COVID-19 Transmission

he Los Angeles County Department of Public Health reminds residents to take common-sense precautions to avoid becoming ill with COVID-19 as data shows small increases in the number of reported COVID-19 cases, virus concentrations in wastewater and the percentage of positive COVID-19 tests for the past four weeks. With traveling and gatherings increasing during summer, protection from COVID-19 infection remains important as a new group of variants has begun to circulate nationwide. The so called "FLiRT" variants, including KP.2 and KP.3 variants, descendants of Omicron variants JN.1, are causing an increasing proportion of cases in the United States. While these variants may have some mutations that make them more easily transmissible, there are no indications that these variants may cause more severe illness.

For the past three summers, Los Angeles County has experienced increases in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. Cases and hospitalizations started to creep up for summer 2021 in early July. In contrast, in 2022, cases and hospitalizations began to increase in early May. In 2023, a gradual increase in cases and hospitalizations began in early July.

This week, Public Health reports 106 average daily COVID-19 cases, a small increase from the 83 cases reported last week. Reported cases are an undercount, due to the large number of at-home COVID test results that are not reported to Public Health.

Wastewater concentrations of SARS CoV-2, the virus that results in a COVID-19 infection, are at 16% of the most recent winter peak, an increase from 11% reported the week prior, indicating that transmission is still occurring. Wastewater concentrations may provide more accurate information about COVID-19 transmission levels than reported cases alone.

Public Health is reporting an average of 19.6 new COVID-19 hospital admissions per day, a small increase from 16.9 three weeks ago. The 7-day average number of daily COVID-19 hospitalizations in Los Angeles County is 102. Nine percent of hospitalized COVID patients this past week were in intensive care units.

COVID-19 deaths remain relatively low and stable. Public Health is reporting 1 daily average COVID-19 death this week.

While COVID-19 transmission patterns continue to evolve, Public Health encourages residents to take simple precautions to reduce transmission. Summer plans can easily be disrupted by COVID-19 illness and increased transmission continues to pose more risk for the elderly. COVID-19 testing is still recommended, especially for anyone who suspects they have COVID-19 symptoms. Free tests are available throughout Los Angeles County and at local pharmacies through most insurance plans. More information is available at ph.lacounty.gov/COVIDtests.

Individuals testing positive should stay away from others until they are fever free for 24 hours without fever-reducing medication and symptoms have resolved. Masking when around others is necessary to reduce transmission for 10 days after you tested positive or after symptoms started.

Vaccination remains one of the most effective ways to protect against the severe effects of COVID-19. Los Angeles County residents 65 and older still have access to an additional dose of the updated (2023-2024 Formula) COVID-19 vaccine that provides added protection to residents who are at increased risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19. Residents 65 and older can get the updated vaccine four months after their previous dose of the updated vaccine. All residents, 6 months and older, who have not yet received the updated (2023-2024 formula) vaccine, are also urged to take advantage of this important protection from serious COVID-19 illness even if they had earlier versions of the vaccine, had COVID-19 in the past or are in good health and don't get sick often. For information about where to get vaccinated, visit publichealth.lacounty.gov/vaccines

Residents should also wash their hands often or use hand sanitizer, especially before eating, after sneezing or coughing, or when in public places. People should stay home if they have any symptoms of illness, including coughing, sneezing, a fever or sore throat, and consider talking with friends and family so they know to be cautious about gathering if they show signs of infection.

For residents who are concerned that they or a loved one have been exposed to COVID-19 or are seeking resources for increased protection, many options remain available in Los Angeles County. The Public Health InfoLine is open seven days a week, from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. The free service connects callers with a person who can answer their questions, coordinate free telehealth care to receive COVID-19 treatment, and help make a vaccination appointment, including for people who are homebound. The number is 1-833-540-0473.

A wide range of data and dashboards on COVID-19 are updated weekly and are available on the Public Health COVID data webpage. Public Health will continue to monitor COVID-19 circulation and issue press releases as needed to update the public on any potential changes in COVID-19 status in Los Angeles County.

 

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