In what appears to be an unfortunate step backward, Los Angeles County is experiencing another swift rise in coronavirus cases.
More than 2,700 new coronavirus infections and 13 more deaths were reported on Thursday, the highest number since the deadly winter surge in February, health officials reported.
“We are continuing to see a very rapid rise in transmission countywide, with cases doubling over the last 10 days. We are reporting 2,767 new cases,” Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said at a news conference Thursday. “This is an 80% increase over the last week.”
The concerning numbers come one day after the county reported 2,551 new infections and seven deaths on Wednesday, calling the number a 20-fold increase from June 21 when only 124 new cases were reported.
Hospitals are currently treating 645 people with COVID-19, up vastly from the 213 people who were reported as being hospitalized on June 21.
Health officials said the rapid rise in cases is attributable in part to the fast-spreading delta variant and about 4 million L.A. County residents who remain unvaccinated.
And while the current COVID-19 spike is still lower than they were at any point during the devastating peaks the county endured in early December of 2020, Ferrer noted it is still “quite high.”
“We still believe it’s too early to say with 100% certainty whether the small uptick we are seeing in hospitalizations is the beginning of small wave of hospitalizations, or the start of a more devastating surge,” Ferrer said. “We are hopeful, however, that with so many of our highest risk residents fully vaccinated, we will not see the same rate of increase in hospitalizations that we saw last year.”
In hopes of getting the rate of new infections under control quickly, the county enacted a mask requirement over the weekend for everyone over the age of 2, regardless of vaccination status, and officials continue to stress the critical importance of getting inoculated.
“It’s adding an extra later of protection to prevent the heartache that comes from transmitting the virus to others,” Ferrer said.
More than 4.9 million residents are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, including 88% of residents 65 and over, 70% of people 16 and older 69% of those 12 and over.
According to county data, among those who are fully vaccinated, there have been 6,520 breakthrough cases reported between Jan. 18 and Tuesday. Of those, 287 people were hospitalized and 30 died.
In an effort to restore confidence in vaccinations despite the 0.13% of cases that occurred among the fully vaccinated, Ferrer compared getting a COVID-19 shot to a person’s routine use of seatbelts.
“It wouldn’t really make sense to not use a seatbelt just because it doesn’t prevent all injuries from car accidents,” she explained. “I like to think of COVID-19 vaccines in the same way. Rejecting a COVID-19 vaccine because they don’t offer 100% protection really ignores the powerful benefits that we have experienced for those people that have in fact gotten vaccinated. And for our community as a whole, as we have been able to reduce transmission with higher rates of vaccination.”
On Thursday, the county’s test positivity rate was 5.26%, an increase from 1.2% on June 15 when the county full reopened.