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As more people go out to work and to socialize, COVID-19 hospitalizations are rising among younger Los Angeles County residents, who now make up almost half of all the county’s documented cases, health officials said Monday.

“Unfortunately, where we are today is different than where we were two, three or four weeks ago,” L.A. County’s health director Barbara Ferrer said. “Cases are surging, hospitalizations are increasing, and mostly, this is all a reflection of a lot more community spread.”

There’s been a significant increase in infections among those aged 18 to 40 years old. “Almost 50% of new cases occur among younger people, and then those younger people are spreading the infection to others,” Ferrer said.

Known infections among those aged 18 to 40 climbed from 27,455 on June 15 to 47,424 Sunday — a nearly 73% increase in just three weeks.

About 48% of all the county’s confirmed cases are aged 40 and younger.

And while historically those 65 and older saw the highest COVID-19 hospitalization rate in L.A. County, people between 41 to 64 years old have in recent weeks been admitted to hospitals at a higher rate for treatment of the respiratory illness.

(L.A. County Department of Public Health)
(L.A. County Department of Public Health)

Hospitalizations for people aged 18 to 40 years old have also spiked.

Overall, there were 1,921 people battling COVID-19 in hospitals across the county Monday — the highest number reported in weeks. About 28% of them were in intensive care units and 18% were on ventilators.

The surge in infections is in part being driven by more people going about and meeting others in recent weeks, Ferrer said.

In early April, 86% of L.A. County residents stayed home at all times. But that’s down to 58% as of Monday, Ferrer said, citing a University of Southern California study.

The number of people coming into close contact with others from different households has increased, rising to 55% at the end of June from 31% at the beginning of April. 

(L.A. County Department of Public Health)
(L.A. County Department of Public Health)

“It’s clear that after months of quarantine combined with the reopening of many sectors in the span of several weeks, we’ve had a lot of people disregard the very practices that allowed us to slow the spread,” Ferrer said. “This cannot continue.”

With county officials having allowed more spaces to reopen, workplaces increasingly became the sites of coronavirus exposures for L.A. County’s residents — 43% of whom have a job that requires close contact with other people on a daily or near-daily basis.

“Our inability to follow the most basic infection control and distancing directives leads to serious illness, and even the death of the people we love, and the death of those who are loved by others. And the evidence is overwhelmingly clear about the impact,” the health director said.

Health officials reported 48 new COVID-19 deaths and another 1,584 coronavirus cases on Monday, bringing the countywide death toll to 3,534 with a total of 116,570 confirmed coronavirus cases.

“If we do not find it in ourselves to actually continue to adhere to the social distancing and infection control practices, it finds us in a place where we’re slowing down our recovery journey,” Ferrer said. “What we do now, will determine where we are in three to four weeks.”

Ferrer described people out at the beach in large “party groups” of young adults not wearing face coverings and sharing food and drinks, saying those settings make it very easy for the coronavirus to spread in outbreaks.

L.A. County’s beaches were closed for the Fourth of July weekend but reopened Monday. Health officials said it would take at least two weeks to see how residents’ actions during the holiday weekend may have affected coronavirus numbers.

“The sooner we can all recommit to taking care of each other, the sooner we get back to creating a new normal, where we go back to work, to school and see our friends and our extended families,” Ferrer said.