By Jim Holt
Senior Investigative Reporter
As the number of new cases, hospitalizations and people dying of COVID continue to drop, public health officials advised residents remain cautious as a sub-variant of the virus spreads throughout the county.
“Our county is in a much better place than we were a few months ago when we were at a peak of the winter surge,” said Barbara Ferrer, director of the Los Angeles County Public Health Department, on Thursday. “As we move into spring, community transmission has slowed which has led to declining hospitalizations and reduced stress across our health care system.”
Over the last several weeks, there have also been fewer people dying from COVID-19 and this is a huge relief, Ferrer added.
“Although the surge is over – the pandemic is not,” Ferrer said, turning her attention to BA 2 sub-variant of the omicron virus and putting it in perspective.
According to Ferrer, in L.A. County health officials are seeing a gradual growth of the BA 2 sub-variant – along with continued declining of COVID-19 cases overall.
The BA2 variant is now the dominant variant in many countries, including some in Europe, that are facing renewed surges in new cases and increases in hospitalizations.
“While we know many in L.A. County have significant protections from BA 2 – from vaccination boosters and recent infections from BA 1 – we are closely tracking the information from Europe,” Ferrer said. “Patterns seen in Britain, in particular, are historically seen in the United States a few weeks later.”
Though there is no is no certainty L.A. County will experience the surges that are being seen in many European countries right now, given the likelihood that BA 2 could easily become the dominant strain, Public Health does have an opportunity to prepare by maintaining its response capacity and increasing vaccination and booster coverage particularly among those most vulnerable, Ferrer added.
In addition, Ferrer had some advice for anyone concerned about the L.A. Marathon or spring break.
About the marathon, she advised: “I suggest you have your mask on while you’re in the corral. It’s easy to slip off when to start running.”
Concerned runners should try to keep their distance from other runners, refrain from sharing water bottles and using hand sanitizers.
On the topic of spring break, she advised: “These spring break times can in fact increase your individual risk so we ask that you be particularly cautious and use the personal protections at hand.”
On Friday, the L.A. County Public Health Department released the following data:
Countywide COVID-19 cases reported in the past 24 hours: 723
Total COVID-19 cases in L.A. County: 2,820,159
New deaths related to COVID-19 reported in the past 24 hours: 38
Total COVID-19 deaths in L.A. County: 31,443
Hospitalizations countywide as of March 18: 471
Hospitalizations at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital as of March 7: 5, with 2,198 discharged since the onset of the pandemic.
COVID-19 cases reported in the Santa Clarita Valley in the past 24 hours: 23, 16 of which came from the city of Santa Clarita
Total COVID-19 cases in the SCV: 71,838
Total COVID-19 deaths in the SCV as of March 16: 443