Los Angeles County on Saturday reported 66 new COVID-19 deaths, the highest daily tally since April 2 of last year, with daily deaths having increased fourfold in just one week. 

According to county health officials, the majority of deaths reported this past week were from people who became infected after Dec. 20, “when the omicron variant was circulating widely.”

L.A. County’s overall death toll has now hit more than 28,000 since the pandemic began. The county also reported 41,765 new cases of COVID-19, and said “the extraordinarily high number of new cases reflects worrisome rates of community transmission.”

“As deaths often lag behind surges in cases and hospitalizations, sadly, the increase in deaths does not come as a surprise and tragically, we are prepared for even higher number of deaths in the coming weeks,” Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement Saturday. “With unvaccinated individuals 22 times more likely to die from COVID-19 compared to those fully vaccinated, residents should not delay getting vaccinated and boosted as these measures are saving lives.”

Ferrer has also urged residents to avoid dangerous activities in the coming weeks, particularly those that are indoors and involve mingling with unvaccinated or higher-risk people. She also stressed that while the omicron variant is easily capable of infecting vaccinated people, the shots are still proving to be effective in preventing infected people from winding up hospitalized.

She encouraged residents to get vaccinated and obtain booster shots; wear upgraded masks such as N95, KN95 or KF94 varieties; and get tested, saying the county has dramatically expanded testing availability.

The rolling average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus was 17.9% on Saturday.

The number of COVID-19 patients in L.A. County hospitals has also increased to 4,386 —  up from 4,257 reported on Friday. 

Many coronavirus patients entered the hospital for other reasons and only discovered they had been infected with COVID-19 after a mandated test. Nonetheless, the steep rise in cases are putting a strain on hospitals, with many nurses and other staffers unavailable themselves due to the pandemic.

As of Friday, more than 80% of all adult ICU beds in the county were occupied.