16,510. That was the number of new COVID-19 cases in LA County yesterday. Just last week, on December 22, we reported 6,509 cases, and people were concerned at that time because the number was up from 1,850 on December 15, one week earlier. So it’s not just the sheer number of cases that are spiking right now, which are alarming by themselves, but also the speed with which they’re rising – a rate faster than any previously seen at any point during the current pandemic. And that includes last winter’s transmission rates, as shown in the following graph tracking 7-day average case rates during the period from May 2020 to the present:
So with another big holiday – New Year’s Eve – looming tomorrow, LA County Public Health officials are definitely taking note and urging residents to either scale back or reconsider entirely their celebratory plans.
“Keeping family members, the community, and those most vulnerable safe from the quickly spreading Omicron and Delta variants is of paramount importance,” said department officials in a public statement yesterday.
“Public Health urges residents to scale down New Year’s plans by limiting gatherings to a very small number of people where everyone is fully vaccinated and boosted if eligible. Large, crowded events are just too risky this holiday. Individuals who are sick should remain isolated from others, and everyone should wear a mask, even when indoors, if gathering with people not in your household. Vaccinations and boosters remain the best protection against severe illness and disease from COVID.”
And while there are no plans yet for any sort of mandatory lockdown, LA County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer also said in the statement, “As cases continue to rise, it is important that we all use the tools available to help us curb the spread. As we get ready to welcome the new year, this includes re-thinking party plans, limiting time indoors with non-household members, and isolating from others if feeling sick.”
Ferrer added that people should also “always wear a medical grade mask when in close contact with others outside your household. With increasing evidence that vaccinated, and where eligible, boosted individuals have significant protection against severe COVID illness, the best way to limit heartache during one of the worst COVID surges, is to get vaccinated and boosted as quickly as possible.”
Regarding testing – which should be done if you’re feeling sick, have been exposed to COVID in some way, or simply suspect you may have been exposed – we’ve previously reported that there has been a handy free, no-appointment test site on Larchmont Blvd. for much of the last week (first at the city parking lot and then for a few days in the Tailwaggers parking lot). This site is now gone for a few days, but it will be back on Sunday, this time located at the south end of the Larchmont business district, near 1st and Larchmont, from Sunday through Tuesday…and then it will move to the Ebell of Los Angeles, starting next Wednesday, January 5.
Meanwhile, if you want to get tested (or tested again) before Sunday, you can also find many other free testing sites around our general Greater Wilshire area, as well as the metro area as a whole, at https://covid19.lacounty.gov/testing/ . Many sites have walk-in/walk-up availability, with no appointments needed.
One interesting note about the Larchmont testing site, however, is that it uses a cheek/throat swab, unlike many of the other local pop-up sites, most of which use the more common nasal swabs. For some people the difference may be simply one of comfort or discomfort, depending on the person, but we saw one interesting report today showing that, according to a current study in South Africa, nasal swabs may be more effective for detecting the still-extant Delta variant of COVID-19, while oral swabs may be better at detecting the new, more virulent Omicron variant:
“The findings came from an analysis of 382 patients tested at Groote Schuur [Hospital] from August through this month, with viral whole-genome sequencing performed on isolates from those with positive results. Just over 300 were tested prior to Omicron’s emergence, with 31 testing positive for the Delta variant. Another 74 arrived at the hospital after Omicron became common, of whom 36 were positive for that variant.
All patients had both saliva and…nasal samples taken for RT-PCR analysis. The “gold standard” for positivity in the study was detection of SARS-CoV-2 RNA with either swab.
For the Delta variant, the positive percent agreement for each sampling method, in comparison with this “gold standard,” was 71% for saliva and 100% for the nasal swabs. But this was reversed for Omicron, with 100% agreement between saliva samples and the gold standard, but only 86% for nasal swabs.”
The report goes on to say that, “Nasal swabs have been the standard for COVID-19 screening and diagnosis ever since the virus was discovered, but that may no longer be appropriate in an Omicron-dominated pandemic landscape.” In fact, wrote the study authors, “These findings suggest that the pattern of viral shedding during the course of infection is altered for Omicron,” with saliva containing higher levels of the virus than nasal samples, which is the exact opposite of the Delta strain.
What to Do if You Get Sick
According to the CDC, if you test positive for COVID, whether or not you are vaccinated, you should isolate:
- Stay home for 5 days.
- If you have no symptoms or your symptoms are resolving after 5 days, you can leave your house.
- Continue to wear a mask around others for 5 additional days.
If you have a fever, continue to stay home until your fever resolves.
Or, if you were exposed to someone with COVID-19, you should quarantine:
Have been boosted
Completed the primary series of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine within the last 6 months
Completed the primary series of J&J vaccine within the last 2 months
- Wear a mask around others for 10 days.
- Test on day 5, if possible.
If you develop symptoms get a test and stay home.
Completed the primary series of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine over 6 months ago and are not boosted
Completed the primary series of J&J over 2 months ago and are not boosted
- Stay home for 5 days. After that continue to wear a mask around others for 5 additional days.
- If you can’t quarantine you must wear a mask for 10 days.
- Test on day 5 if possible.
If you develop symptoms get a test and stay home.