Los Angeles County reported 3,512 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, Dec. 19, and nine additional deaths associated with the virus — the third consecutive day with more than 3,000 new cases after months of lower totals.
Despite the high number of cases, officials said Sunday’s number of cases and deaths likely reflect reporting delays over the weekend.
The number of Los Angeles County residents hospitalized with COVID-19 increased by just one to 743 Sunday, with 180 of those patients in intensive care, the same as Saturday’s total. The county had 772 COVID patients on Thursday.
Sunday’s numbers brought the county’s cumulative totals to 1,563,879 cases and 27,441 fatalities since the pandemic began, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
The daily test positivity rate was 1.9% as of Sunday, up from 1.3% six days earlier.
With the new Omicron variant expected to fuel a spike in cases and hospitalizations in the coming weeks, health officials are stepping up their efforts to combat the pandemic, including new rules for attending large events.
As of Friday, anyone attending indoor or outdoor mega-events in the county who cannot provide proof of full vaccination was required to provide proof of a negative COVID test within one day (if antigen test) or two days (if PCR test) of the event.
Children under age 2 are exempt from the rule for indoor events, and children under 5 are exempt for outdoor events. This is a change from the previous health order, which required proof of a negative test within 72 hours.
The county defines mega-events as indoor gatherings of more than 1,000 people or outdoor events of more than 10,000 people.
Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Thursday there is no evidence to suggest the new variant causes more severe symptoms than previous versions, but it is more transmissible than other variants.
“Based on the data collected to date, we anticipate that Omicron will circulate more widely in L.A. County in the very near future, leading to many more cases over a short period of time, particularly given increased gatherings with travel over the winter holiday,” Ferrer said.
“Unvaccinated individuals appear to remain at the highest risk, but all the evidence to date indicates that those fully vaccinated are also at increased risk, particularly for getting infected and infecting others.”
Officials noted Thursday’s action by an advisory panel to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which unanimously voted to give a preferential recommendation to mRNA vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna over the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine due to rare but serious blood clots associated with the latter.
Dr. Isaac See of the CDC said health officials have confirmed 54 cases of the blood clots — nine of which have been fatal — and two additional deaths suspected to be related to the blood clotting issue.
L.A. County officials say that as of Dec. 12, over 530,000 residents have received a dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
“We remind residents that L.A. County’s supply of mRNA vaccines is abundant and that when it is time to get a booster dose, individuals previously vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine should consider boosters with Pfizer or Moderna,” the health department said Friday.
“We appreciate the CDC’s guidance on vaccine choice,” Ferrer said. “While any vaccine is better than no vaccine, we urge those who have received Johnson and Johnson vaccines to obtain booster doses of Pfizer or Moderna vaccines to ensure they are well protected from both suffering severe COVID outcomes.”
The county’s health department also said Friday that compliance with mask-wearing mandates in the public and business sector was high, and credited the practice with keeping transmission low in public schools. With more than 1.55 million students across 3,000 L.A. County schools, officials said they are routinely seeing fewer than a dozen outbreaks each week.
And out of more than 1,500 site visits conducted from Dec. 4-10, the vast majority of businesses and industries, including restaurants, bars, food markets and hair salons, had masking compliance rates above 95%.