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The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Los Angeles County on Wednesday more than doubled over the previous day, health officials announced.

A total of 6,509 new cases were reported Wednesday, reflecting one of the steepest rises the county has seen over the course of the pandemic, the Department of Public Health said.

“This steep increase … reflects the increased circulation of Omicron and the associated rapid acceleration of transmission associated with this variant,” the department said in a news release.

Wednesday’s test positivity rate was 4.5%, while the rate was 1.9% one week ago.

“We’re headed into a very challenging time over the holiday,” Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a briefing Wednesday. “If our case numbers continue to increase at a rapid pace over this week and next, we could be looking at case numbers we have never seen before, well over 20,000 cases a day by the end of this year.” 

Unvaccinated residents remain most exposed to the worst effects of the virus, Ferrer pointed out. Between Dec. 5 to 11, fully vaccinated people with boosters were 20 times more protected from infection, according to data from the department. And, fully vaccinated people without boosters were four times more protected in comparison to unvaccinated people. 

An additional 162 cases of the omicron variant were also detected Wednesday, another sharp rise over 60 reported Monday and 38 confirmed last Friday.

The presence of the highly transmissible variant was first confirmed in California three weeks ago.

The increase in omicron variant cases mirrors nationwide trends. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Monday that the variant is now the dominant version of the coronavirus in the U.S., accounting for 73% of new infections nationwide last week.

Despite the rise in cases and the rapid spread of the omicron variant, L.A. County health officials said Tuesday that there are no lockdowns planned as of now, since vaccines remain a strong tool to combat the new variant.

However, health officials have warned that L.A. County could already be seeing the beginning of another COVID-19 winter surge. The Public Health Department reminded residents that getting vaccinated and boosted, in addition to testing and masking, remain critical while in the surge. 

Earlier Wednesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom detailed a new mandate for California’s roughly 2.5 million health care workers to get a coronavirus vaccine booster shot by Feb. 1.