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Public Health Update: New Bivalent COVID-19 Boosters Available; Monkeypox Case Rate Plateauing

LA County Public Health Director provides her first in-person weekly public health briefing since the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic.


For the first time in many months, LA County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer and Dr. Rita Singhal, Chief Medical Officer and Director of the LA County Disease Control Bureau, held their weekly public health address in person this week, speaking from a county-run COVID-19 and monkeypox vaccination site at the Balboa Sports Complex in Encino.

The in-person address was definitely yet another sign that, as Ferrer put it, “the impact of the pandemic in LA County continues to decline,” with new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths all down again this week.  This week’s numbers also keep us in the “low” community tier, as defined by the CDC, for the second week in a row.  (Note, though, that the “low” designation refers to the level of stress on our community health system, not the current transmission rates.  Ferrer said that although cases are falling right now, we do still have a fairly high rate of virus transmission…and until that reduces significantly, we should still take common sense precautions such as masking in crowded indoor spaces, testing before and after large gatherings, and isolating when sick.)

The big COVID-19 news this week, however, is that as of Wednesday, the new bivalent COVID-19 boosters are now widely available.  These new booster shots, recommended for ages 12 and up, offer protection against both the original strain of COVID-19 and the newer Omicron family of variants.  Currently, Ferrer reported, 95% of cases in LA County are caused by the BA.5 subvariant of Omicron, so officials are hopeful that the new boosters may help to further reduced the spread of this dominant strain.  (Ferrer also noted that the BA4.6 Omicron subvariant – which the new boosters should also protect against – has been spreading elsewhere in the U.S. lately, but has not yet gained a toehold here, with only 1.4% of local cases attributed to it in the most recent reporting period.)

Ferrer said everyone eligible for the new boosters will be encouraged to get one before the upcoming holiday season, to help prevent the kind of big winter surge we’ve seen in the last couple of years.  “We hope with this bivalent vaccine we might reduce our chances of a third winter surge of COVID since we have a pretty good match with what’s circulating,” she said.



Ferrer said LA County is scheduled to receive 363,000 doses of the bivalent vaccines (people 18 and older can receive either a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, while those ages 12 to 17 are limited to the Pfizer shots), and 292,000 of those have already arrived and are available at more than 1,500 vaccination sites around LA County.  To receive one of the new bivalent booster doses, contact your primary care provider, a local pharmacy, or visit one of the LA County vaccination sites.  To find a vaccination provider near you, see

Meanwhile, providing an update on monkeypox, Dr. Singhal said cases in the US rose from approximately 50,000 last week to more than 56,000 this week, with 4,100 cases in California, and 1,674 in LA County.  The profile of those newly infected is consistent with what has been seen previously, with the majority of those infected male, white or Hispanic, and members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Singhal also reported that one person with monkeypox in LA County died this week, though officials are still investigating whether or not the death was primarily caused by monkeypox.  So far, there has been only one death attributed to monkeypox in the U.S., and only 7 worldwide, Singhal said.

The good news on the monkeypox front this week, as last week, was that case rates continue to plateau.  And the doubling rate for new cases is now 29 days, significantly lower than the 8 days it peaked at a few weeks ago.  “This supports that virus transmission is slowing in LA County,” Singhal said.


Also this week, Singhal reported that monkeypox vaccine eligibility has been expanded again.  People now eligible include LA County residents who are gay or bisexual, have sex with gay or bisexual men, or who engage in commercial or transactional sex. Also eligible are persons living with HIV, and – new this week – persons who have had skin-to-skin contact with someone who is suspected to have monkeypox (whether or not that infection has been confirmed yet).

Vaccines are available with or without appointments at county vaccination sites, and no ID or registration is required.


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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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