Public Health Update: COVID-19 Numbers Decline Again, Boost Hope for Better Winter

 

“We are seeing some positive signs,” LA County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in her weekly address yesterday, noting that new COVID-19 cases continued to trend downward last week, after peaking in early December after the Thanksgiving holiday.  Ferrer said she expects there to be a slight rise after the Christmas and New Year holidays in the next few weeks, but she also hopes various preventive measures – such as booster shots and wearing masks at indoor gatherings – will help prevent the kind of sharp post-holiday increase we’ve seen in the last two years.

Overall, Ferrer said, this week’s numbers, which show a 13% drop in new cases from the previous week, are enough to keep us in the “Medium” community tier again this week.  There was a slight increase in hospitalizations this week, though…and transmission is still widespread, with weekly hospitalizations and deaths both still higher than they were during the peak of our summer surge in July.

Among the currently circulating COVID-19 variants, Ferrer said, BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 remain dominant, now accounting for more than 60% of sequenced specimens in LA County…while the previously-dominant BA.5 strain accounts for only 18% of sequenced specimens.  (The BQ variants are sub-variants of BA.5, however, so this year’s BA.5-specific vaccines should be effective against them, too.)

Meanwhile, Ferrer said the newer XBB variant (which is not part of the lineage that this fall’s bivalent boosters target, and which contains a mutation that makes it more likely to evade vaccines and other prior immunity) accounts for only about 5% of local cases at the moment.  But the numbers are much higher in the northeastern part of the U.S. – up to 50% – Ferrer said, and holiday travel will likely bring more of it to LA County very soon.

Even so, however, Ferrer said that with proper caution – testing before and after gatherings, wearing masks for indoor events and crowded outdoor venues, making sure people’s vaccinations are up to date (which includes only 20% of eligible Angelenos are at the moment), and frequent hand washing – people should still be able to safely enjoy their New Year’s gatherings this weekend.

Finally, Ferrer said that after the holiday weekend, the County does “request” that people wear masks in public spaces indoors (including stores, workplaces, and schools) for 10 days.  This is the general COVID-19 incubation period, during which people can easily transmit the virus before showing any symptoms.  So wearing mask in public places during this post-holiday return-to-work-and-school period, Ferrer said, will help protect both patrons and the frontline workers staffing our businesses and more.

“I am hopeful, she said, “that we can get through this winter without the devastation witnessed during our previous two winter surges, while recognizing that there are still significant risks, especially with the potential of a new COVID strain.  Collectively our actions can make for a safe and healthy 2023.”

 

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About 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 is the co-owner/publisher of the Buzz.

One thought on “Public Health Update: COVID-19 Numbers Decline Again, Boost Hope for Better Winter

  1. These figures aren’t very comforting when you are the one who has Covid, passed on by someone who was contagious.

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