While COVID-19 numbers have leveled off in Los Angeles County, worldwide COVID-19 cases have increased for two consecutive weeks, according to Barbara Ferrer, director of the Los Angeles County Public Health Department.
In a media briefing Thursday, Ferrer discussed daily COVID-19 averages in the county, possible new threats, and she advised that residents remain cautious and practice safe steps to reduce the spread the coronavirus and its variants.
“We are about two months out from the peak of our winter surge and we’ve seen significant declines in our cases, hospitalizations and deaths,” she said.
Ferrer reported 784 new cases of COVID-19, 16 deaths and 308 hospitalizations of confirmed cases as of Wednesday in Los Angeles County. She said the average number of daily new cases reported over the previous seven days declined slightly from a few weeks ago. According to statistics she shared, there was a drop in numbers from last week. New cases on March 25 indicated 889 new cases, 21 deaths and 350 hospitalizations.
But she said she worries that with lower numbers — even a leveling off — people are feeling they don’t need vaccinations or boosters. Some, she added, are waiting for a better booster that might be on the way, but she advised people not to wait.
As of Sunday, she said that about 37% of L.A. County residents who are 12 and older and live in the most vulnerable communities received one additional or booster dose.
“While the rate increased by 10 percentage points since Jan. 9,” Ferrer said, “it falls far short of the threshold level of 45% coverage with that additional dose.”
She added that the county’s Public Health Department is working with vaccination partners to take steps to speed up the pace of vaccination and boosters.
“Despite the lack of federal reimbursement now for vaccines for uninsured individuals,” Ferrer said, “we’ve been able to maintain a robust network of over 700 mobile sites and additional fixed county vaccination sites where vaccines are offered at no charge to everyone.”
Additionally, with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Tuesday approval for a second booster dose of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, Ferrer urges those who are 50 years of age or older, who have undergone solid organ transplant or who are living with conditions that cause a level of immunocompromise to get the shot. Those unsure about their eligibility should speak with their health care providers or call the public health call center at 833-540-0473.
In looking at the increase of worldwide COVID-19 cases for two consecutive weeks in March, Ferrer advised caution.
“While we’re fortunate that our cases, hospitalizations and deaths remain relatively low in L.A. County,” she said, “the international situation bears watching, and changing conditions across the globe require attention per the World Health Organization for the first time since January.”
She added that for this reason, the Public Health Department continues to closely monitor the early alert signals and the preparedness measures. When needed, the county will have to adjust its strategies to address areas of moderate or high concern.
And with the highly contagious Omicron subvariant BA.2, she said, comes reason for residents to practice four action steps as a means to reduce risk: Get vaccinated and/or boosted as soon as possible, keep a regular supply of at-home tests and test if you have symptoms or were exposed to COVID-19, wear a mask indoors in public places, and, if you can’t get vaccinated due to medical reasons or your body can’t mount an appropriate immune response, ask your provider about the therapeutic Evusheld.
“If we all take these reasonable steps,” Ferrer concluded, “I’m confident that we can continue to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in communities across the county.”