Los Angeles County has moved into the Centers for Disease Control’s “medium” tier, where it is expected to stay for the foreseeable future, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
Case numbers, hospital admissions and deaths have all significantly dropped and the stress put on the county’s health care system has alleviated, to a degree. Case rates have gone down 22% in the past week and hospitalizations are down to 9.9 per 100,000 people.
Deaths related to COVID-19 are also down by 21%. However, the weekly average for deaths is just under 14 per day.
Public Health Director, Barbara Ferrer, expressed that following the county’s close brush with an indoor mask mandate, the news was welcoming and her optimism at the department’s weekly press conference seemed to be less cautious.
“As you all know, on July 14, L.A. County did move from the ‘medium’ to ‘high’ community level in the CDC framework,” said Ferrer. “According to the data that we saw this morning, the declines in the L.A. County admissions rate should drop us from the ‘high’ to the ‘medium’ level today.”
Ferrer said that although the past winter’s surge was driven by the Omicron variant, this summer’s surge was caused mainly by Omicron’s sub-variants — such as BA.4 and BA.5. Ferrer said both of these variants seem to be stabilizing and that a new rapidly spreading variant ravaging the county does not appear to be on the horizon.
“This does give us hope that the recent decline in cases may continue for some weeks to come, recognizing that we cannot predict with certainty the future course of SARS-CoV-2 mutations, or when new variants of concern may emerge, or the behaviors we all engage in that offer us some protections.”
Ferrer also wanted to note that these new variants still impose the risk of being reinfected, even if someone already had COVID-19, and that being reinfected could put one at risk of “long COVID,” which could increase the chance of heart or lung disease.
Going back to school
During Public Health’s press conference, Ferrer wanted to reiterate the protocols and regulations related to COVID-19 in anticipation of the coming school year and also thanked several people for making them happen.
“I wanna start by applauding the administrators, our labor partners, the teachers, the staff, students and parents for their really outstanding efforts to create safety at schools,” said Ferrer.
Ferrer said all schools are to have written COVID-19 control and contain plans if an outbreak were to occur and a contingency plan to either partially or fully shut down in the event of a major outbreak. Every COVID case in schools is to be looked into and campuses are required to manage any large outbreaks.
As for masking, schools must offer masks to all staff and teachers and if an indoor mask mandate is to occur, everyone would be required to wear them. If a staff member is cleared to come back to campus after they’ve had COVID-19 and quarantined for the required five days, they must wear a mask until day 10 after their infection.
Children must isolate themselves at home for at least five days before returning to school. Public schools will also still retain the option of enforcing their own mask mandates.
Ferrer also gave several recommendations, not requirements, on how to minimize the spread of COVID-19, such as minimizing class crowding, having certain activities outdoors, and improving ventilation systems. She also promoted vaccination, saying that it “remains the most powerful tool available for preventing severe illness, both for adults and children.”
Ferrer also announced that the California Department of Energy is offering a third round of funding to public schools through a program called CalSHAPE. CalSHAPE will be providing funding for ventilation upgrades and maintenance.
“As we start the school year, we’re in a much better place than we were a year ago in this pandemic,” said Ferrer. “We have vaccines available for all children 6 months and older, we have good access to therapeutics and testing, and a wealth of knowledge about this virus.”
In addition to COVID-19 guidelines and recommendations in regards to going back to school, Ferrer also gave information in regards to Monkeypox and the risk to children.
Ferrer said there are many causes for rashes in children and that the risk for them catching is extremely low. However, if a parent does see a rash they should consult with a pediatrician as soon as possible.
The main Monkeypox briefing was done by Dr. Rita Singhal, chief medical officer and director for the Disease Control Bureau at the Health Department. Singhal said that although cases are rising around the world, the United States, and in L.A. County, there has not been a reported death here yet.
In L.A. County, there are currently 738 cases of Monkeypox with the median age of infection being 35 years old. Thirty percent of cases are associated with travel.
Of those infected, 99% are males and 85% are within the LGBTQ community. To meet the qualifications for eligibility for the Monkeypox vaccine, you must be a gay, bisexual, or transexual person over the age of 18 and have had multiple or anonymous sexual partners in the past 14 days. Those who are immunocompromised are also eligible for the vaccine.
Monkeypox is only high-risk in the event of physical or intimate contact and low-risk in situations of brief interactions, having a conversation, passing by someone, sharing a pool or other body of water, or traveling near someone with Monkeypox.