Serving Larchmont Village, Hancock Park, and the Greater Wilshire neighborhoods of Los Angeles since 2011.

COVID-19 Update: Trends and Questions


“I think my one big message that I would ask that you pick up and push out this week is to really encourage people to cancel or just not attend unnecessary indoor gatherings. To just stay at home as much as possible, because it will allow us to slow…the…spread.” 

— LA County Board of Supervisors Chair Holly Mitchell

Short Takes


  • 45,076 new cases reported yesterday, numbers still rising and not plateauing yet
  • Hospitalizations are up more than 600% since early December, and deaths are starting to rise now, too.
  • New cases, case rates, hospitalizations and deaths are still all much higher in those who are unvaccinated, much lower in those who are vaccinated, and, lowest of all in those who are both vaccinated and boosted (who have hospitalization and death rates close to zero).
  • As LAUSD reopens after winter break, schools are increasing testing, distancing, contact tracing and case management capability.
  • LA County Isolation/Quarantine guidelines continue to evolve.


The Numbers


First, as has been previously reported, yesterday’s 45,076 new cases, along with steadily increasing hospitalizations and a new uptick in deaths, along with high test positivity and transmission rates,  indicate the current surge is continuing and does not yet show signs yet of slowing.



Overall, however, while new cases are still far above those from last winter’s surge, hospitals and deaths are so far well below last year’s levels.



And the benefits of vaccines are still very evident, too, especially when comparing death rates of unvaccinated and fully vaccinated individuals.



School Testing & Safety


With LAUSD schools back in session this week, local parents have been particularly interested in what schools are doing to stay safe during the current surge.

The first thing, of course, is lots of testing – with all students and staff required to have a negative baseline test before returning to school.  LAUSD tested more than 547,466 students and staff members last week, with a positivity rate just over 12%…which is actually significantly lower than the 20.8% positivity rate for the county as a whole.

And currently, the Department of Public Health is responding to 26 active school outbreaks, all of them related to youth sports activities.



To help with that situation, LAUSD suspended all athletic competitions this week, and it is also increasing overall prevention measures at all schools, including requiring upgraded masks for both students and staff, encouraging as many people as possible to get fully vaccinated and/or receive booster shots, and increasing testing, contact tracing and case management capability.

We’ve also heard from at least one local elementary school that in addition to these measures, schools are also now returning to last year’s social distancing protocols, including classroom seating charts for all students, masking reminders for both students and teachers, and seating in small outdoor pods at lunchtime, to help make contact tracing easier if any students do test positive or turn out to have been exposed to COVID.



Isolation and Quarantine


For all residents, LA County has also developed updated isolation and/or quarantine requirements for those who have been exposed to and/or test positive for COVID.  Details, timelines and testing requirements differ depending on test results, risk factors, and more.  The recommendations continue to evolve, too…but here are the current procedures for people who have tested positive for COVID-19, those who have been exposed and need to quarantine because they have not been fully vaccinated, and those who have been exposed but do NOT need to quarantine because they are fully vaccinated.





Other Issues and Information


The Q&A session after Ferrer’s main presentation yesterday also raised some good questions, and provided some interesting information beyond the statistics above.  These included:

  • The widespread (and increasing) infections from Omicron may or may not help us reach the much-desired “herd immunity” that would prevent the virus from spreading in the future.  Ferrer said Omicron may give those who have had it at least some degree of immunity, especially as an extra layer on top of that provided by vaccines if they are already vaccinated, but there are still many unknowns.  The virus could mutate again before the required 85-90% of the population develops immunity.  Immunity gained from an infection from one variant may not protect against infection from a future variant (for example, it’s not even clear yet whether having been infected with the Delta strain protects people from Omicron).  And we don’t know how long each kind of immunity lasts, what the variations may be among individuals, and how infection-acquired immunity may or may not be affected by other risk factors.  “It’s always a changing landscape, and the best we can do is apply all the extra layers of protection, including getting vaccinated and boosted,” said Ferrer.
  • Many of the communities reporting the most new cases this time around are in more affluent areas, Ferrer said.  This may be because people in those communities simply have more resources — better access to testing (more money to buy test kits, more cars to drive to testing locations, etc.) — but also because more affluent residents probably traveled more, during the holidays, than other groups, and in general they also go to more entertainment venues, and eat at more restaurants, than people who have less disposable income.
  • Although there have been reports from other parts of the country, such as New York City and Washington, DC, that Omicron may have started to peak and decline there, Los Angeles trends are still moving up and have not yet plateaued.  And while we can hope that we will see similar trends here soon, Ferrer said, “There is no way to predict that at this point.”
  • With the Lunar New Year holiday coming soon, Ferrer said families planning traditional large family gatherings may want to reconsider or scale back this year.  “People who are at high risk really do need to avoid high risk activities” like large indoor gatherings, she said.  So older people, people with underlying health conditions, an anyone with any kind of immuno-compromised condition should not be going to those kinds of large, indoor celebrations.  “This is just the time to be really careful and to protect yourself, because the spread is so easy,” said Ferrer.  On the other hand, she said, people at lower risk should feel free to celebrate…if gatherings are small, outdoors, and everyone there is masked, vaccinated and boosted.
  • While there have been some reports of fraudulent testing sites, Ferrer said “99% of the pop-up testing sites are legit.”  And it’s also fairly easy to tell whether a site is real or not, she said.  For example, ask the provider what kind of test they’re using, and what community organization they’re affiliated with, and watch to see if they’re using good health and test handling procedures.  Also, Ferrer said, it “should be a pretty big red flag if someone asks for cash,” since all the legitimate pop-up sites are free.  And, finally, she said, when in doubt, check the LA County testing website.  If a pop-up site is listed there, it is definitely legitimate.  (Though she did caution that the pop-ups are popping up so frequently now that not all of them may be listed on the county site yet…so just because a site isn’t listed doesn’t mean it’s illegitimate.)  If you do find one that doesn’t seem like it’s on the up-and-up Ferrer said, it should be reported to the Department of Consumer and Business Affairs, which will investigate and shut it down if necessary.



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Elizabeth Fuller
Elizabeth Fuller
Elizabeth Fuller was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN but has lived in LA since 1991 - with deep roots in both the Sycamore Square and West Adams Heights-Sugar Hill neighborhoods. She spent 10 years with the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, volunteers at Wilshire Crest Elementary School, and has been writing for the Buzz since 2015.

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  1. covidactnow’s graph of Rt in LA lets you get a feel for how infection rate is changing. The back-of-envelope edition:

    When Rt is greater than one, infection rates will rise. When it’s lower than one, they will decrease.

    It took a month to rise from 1.0 at Thanksgiving to its peak of 1.6 (!) at Christmas, and in the three weeks since, has declined to about 1.3. 3 weeks to decline by 20%. It will have to do that 2+ more times before the case peaks, and cases start declining.

    So expect cases to keep rising slowly for maybe 6-7 weeks… putting the peak around March 1st 🙁

    I hope I’m being overly pessimistic!

  2. Another way of guestimating:

    NYC was about ten days ahead of us (their Rt peaked on Dec 15 rather than Dec 25 like here), and their cases peaked and started dropping Jan 9… so if we’re like them, our cases will peak and start falling around Jan 19th.

    So there you have it: the best case scenario is cases will start falling next week, and the pessimistic scenario is they’ll start falling in March. I can’t wait to find out which is right!


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