By Jim Holt
Senior Investigative Reporter
Anyone looking for a glimmer of light in this week’s bleak COVID-19 update reporting the highest daily number of deaths in L.A. County since March 2021, might have spotted it on the graph that looked like a fish hook at the tip of the spiking upward trend in new cases.
The graph plotted the average number of new COVID-19 cases between July 1 and Jan. 20, 2022.
It was among a dozen graphs presented and explained Thursday by the county’s Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer in her weekly update on the toll taken by the virus in Los Angeles County.
She pointed to the straight vertical line on the graph, bent at its tip, indicating a small decrease.
“This recently observed downward dip for the seven-day daily average new cases may signal the beginning of a decline,” Ferrer said, noting there were 42,115 new positive cases and 102 new deaths attributed to COVID-19 on Thursday.
The glimmer of hope came with a caution, however: There may be “reporting delays of cases from the long holiday weekend.”
“I’m really hopeful that we’re plateauing,” she said. “It looks like Jan. 8 and Jan. 9 is when we had our highest daily case rates.”
She called this week’s data “encouraging.”
It would mean “we really ARE in a plateau right now … I would love to see signs that we are in a decline but I think we have to get a complete week’s worth of data here.”
The current numbers, however, remain bleak.
“While case numbers and test positivity are extraordinarily high, there are small decreases from last week,” Ferrer said. “The average daily new case rate is now about 33,000 cases a day.”
“Test positivity decreased slightly this past week to approximately 17%, meaning nearly one in six people getting tested is infected with COVID.”
Her message was simple: We’re not out of the woods.
“While these small decreases may indicate that we’re no longer seeing exponential growth in transmission, we’re still experiencing the highest rate of spread for this entire pandemic,” Ferrer said.
“I am extraordinarily sad to actually report 102 new deaths from COVID-19. This is the highest number of daily deaths we reported since March 10th of last year,” she said. “The number of new deaths has doubled in just one week and 90% of the deaths reported today are among residents who became ill with COVID after Dec. 24, indicating the high likelihood of infection with the Omicron variant.”
“As Omicron has rapidly become dominant, case numbers have risen and they’ve risen over the past few weeks across every community in L.A. County,” she said.
As deaths often lag behind surges in cases and hospitalizations, the county may see an even higher number of deaths in the coming weeks.
Public Health officials have identified a total 2,385,721 positive cases of COVID-19 across all areas of L.A. County. The positivity rate as of Tuesday was reported to be 17.6%.
There were 4,814 people with COVID-19 hospitalized as of Thursday. Testing results are available for more than 10,762,700 individuals, with 20% of people testing positive.
In stressing the importance of getting vaccinated, Ferrer said, “It’s clear, that across all race and ethnicity groups, the unvaccinated are hospitalized at substantially higher rates when compared to those vaccinated.”
To keep workplaces and schools open, residents and workers are asked by county officials to adhere to masking requirements when indoors or at crowded outdoor spaces, regardless of vaccination status, and to remain home when sick, isolate if positive and quarantine when in close contact.
Residents are legally required to be isolated if they have a positive COVID-19 test result and vaccinated. Close contacts with symptomatic individuals and unvaccinated close contacts need to be quarantined.
For updated isolation and quarantine guidance, Ferrer urged people to visit www.publichealth.lacounty.gov .
Vaccinations are always free and open to eligible residents and workers regardless of immigration status. Appointments are not needed at all Public Health vaccination sites and many community sites where first, second and third doses are available. To find a vaccination site near you, or to make an appointment, visit: www.VaccinateLACounty.com (English) or www.VacunateLosAngeles.com (Spanish).
The L.A. County Public Health Department released the following numbers on Friday:
Countywide COVID-19 cases reported in the past 24 hours: 43,091
Total COVID-19 cases in L.A. County: 2,428,744
New deaths related to COVID-19 reported in the past 24 hours: 65
Total COVID-19 deaths in L.A. County: 28,346
Hospitalizations countywide as of Jan. 21: 4,792,
Hospitalizations at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital as of Jan. 21: 91, with 1,921 discharged since the onset of the pandemic.
COVID-19 cases reported in the Santa Clarita Valley in the past 24 hours: 751, 570 of which came from the city of Santa Clarita
Total COVID-19 cases in the SCV: 63,146
Total COVID-19 deaths in the SCV as of Jan. 20: 387
Percentage of City of Santa Clarita vaccinated residents as of Jan. 16: 80.7%
Percentage of Santa Clarita Valley vaccinated residents as of Jan. 16: 77.1%