LA County reports highest number of new COVID-19 cases since February

Los Angeles County health officials reported 3,058 new COVID-19 infections Friday, the highest number of new cases since February.

The daily total marks the third consecutive days that at least 2,500 cases have been reported and the 15th consecutive day that new daily COVID-19 cases throughout the county have topped 1,000.

Cumulatively, the number of COVID-19 cases throughout the pandemic increased to 1,279,171.

County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer told KNX In Depth that the increase in cases was due to a combination of the Delta variant and the increase of intermingling of unmasked people who may or may not be vaccinated. Ferrer urged unvaccinated people to get vaccinated.

The County reported there 655 people with COVID-19 currently hospitalized, an increase of more than 200 cases. Last Friday, there were 452 people hospitalized due to COVID-19.

Friday’s test positivity rate is 5.2%; an increase from the rate of 4.0% last Friday and a marked increase from the rate of 1.2% on June 15 when physical distancing restrictions and capacity limits were lifted across all sectors.

There were seven new deaths reported, a decrease from 13 deaths reported on Thursday. To date, the county has reported 24,614 COVID-related deaths during the pandemic.

The positive cases throughout the county are on the rise since June 15, but Ferrer said the more than 5 million county residents who have been vaccinated have helped lessen the numbers. And while 20% of new cases reported were from vaccinated residents, Ferrer told KNX said that was to be expected.

“We have a more infectious variant, which makes it much easier for everyone to get infected, particularly if you’re not vaccinated,” she said. “The truth is that a post-vaccination infection that results in either no symptoms or a very mild illness, that’s because the vaccine is effective.”

LA County re-instituted a mask mandate on July 18, which requires residents to wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status. Ferrer said that mandate will help slow the spread of COVID.

Other counties throughout the state have worked towards implementing various vaccine mandates, which Ferrer was not inclined to implement until after the Food and Drug Administration fully approves at least one vaccine.

“We have a long history in this country of mandating vaccines, particularly for children and at other times during pandemics or epidemics where we’ve had a lot of serious disease that’s been circulating,” she said. “I agree that requiring vaccinations among some people is a place that we are all going to end up being once the FDA gives full approval.”

Health officials reported that 59% of the county’s residents have received at least one vaccine shot, but noted the vaccination rates among Black and Latino residents continues to trail Asians and white residents.

Just 46% of Black residents in the county have had at least one vaccine shot, compared to 55% for Latino residents. The vaccination rate for white residents is at 66%, with a 77% rate for Asians.

Ferrer said her focus for the next couple of weeks is to encourage more people to get vaccinated and to build confidence in the effectiveness of the vaccines.

“I want to take up back to when these vaccines were first approved and what was most hopeful about these vaccines was how effective they were for preventing people from getting seriously ill and preventing people from dying,” Ferrer said. “What hasn’t changed is how effective these vaccines are preventing people from ending up in the hospital and then ending up passing away.”