“It’s troubling to continue to see a slight uptick in cases and now, obviously, no decline in our hospitalizations,” said Los Angeles County Department of Public health Director Barbara Ferrer today. “I think it’s too soon to say whether we’re in a fifth wave or not. We’re hoping at best it’s a small bump up and nothing near like last winter.” Ferrer said avoiding such a surge “takes all of us.”
Last week, Covid test positivity rates and virus-related hospitalizations rose in Los Angeles and California for the first time in months. In Los Angeles on Thursday, Ferrer reported that test positivity had risen to 1.2% from a low of 0.7% on October 18. That may not seem like much, but it’s a 71% rise over 10 days in a measure that’s a 7-day average, which smooths out daily bumps. Today test positivity in L.A. was 1.6%. That’s more than double the recent low of 0.7%.
The county’s 7-day cumulative transmission rate as estimated by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was 84 new cases per 100,000 residents this week, up from the mid-70s last week, keeping the county entrenched in the “substantial” transmission category. The 7-day transmission rate is considered one of the most reliable indicators of infection spread because, like the test positivity rate, it’s an average spread over multiple days.
Today, the number of new cases in Los Angeles County rose to 1,829. Ferrer said that number of new cases includes nearly 400 test results that were backlogged from a single large testing lab. The county reported a similar backlog yesterday when it announced 1,605 new cases. The number of new cases last week ranged between about 450 and 1,000, so even subtracting 400 each of the past two days, daily cases are up at least 20-40%. It’s only two days, but not a trend anyone wants to continue.
Ferrer characterized the state of Covid-related hospitalizations as “no decline,” but the truth is the number of such hospitalizations has also slowly ticked up. Roughly 10 days ago, on October 24th, the number of Covid patients in L.A. hospitals was 617. As of November 1 (the latest date for which there is data) there were 651 such hospitalizations. That’s a 5% increase.
There were only 12 new Covid-related deaths in L.A. today, which is good news. But Ferrer warned of death rates among unvaxed people: “tragically, they’re now ticking up.”
Among the her chief concerns is “seasonality in the virus,” meaning diseases like Covid and the flu tend to propagate more readily as the weather cools and people spend more time together indoors. In light of that, Ferrer expressed concerns about the coming Thanksgiving holiday.
“We all lived through a devastating November/December last year,” said Ferrer. “We have to learn from past history to not move quickly when we see a slight downward trend, given that we’re moving into colder weather.”
City News Service contributed to this report.