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The number of coronavirus-positive patients has spiked dramatically across Southern California since Christmas — but some health officials are noting important differences in how the latest surge is playing out in hospitals compared with last winter’s devastating wave.

In Los Angeles, Orange and Ventura counties, the coronavirus-positive patient count has more than doubled in the last nine days. And in L.A. and San Bernardino counties, the daily hospital census has surpassed the peak seen during last summer’s spike.

Some officials remain concerned that hospitals could still face challenges as the highly contagious Omicron variant infects people at what experts are calling an unprecedented rate. But there are signs that the crunch at a number of Southern California’s hospitals may not be as severe as last year, before vaccines were widely available.

Roughly two-thirds of patients who have tested positive at hospitals run by the L.A. County Department of Health Services were admitted for something other than the coronavirus, according to Health Services Director Dr. Christina Ghaly.

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