Having advanced this week into the least-restrictive tier in the state reopening plan, Los Angeles County is marking another milestone in the battle against COVID-19: fewer people are battling the virus at hospitals countywide than at any other point since the pandemic began.
As of Friday the five-day average of daily hospitalizations stood at 389, compared to a peak of more than 8,000 this winter and an average of nearly 4,500 a day just three months ago as hospitals remained overwhelmed, according to the county Department of Public Health.
Within that same time, L.A. County has also advanced from the most-restrictive purple tier to the yellow tier under the state’s reopening rules.
Statewide, hospitalizations are also at their lowest point since the pandemic’s first weeks, according to data reviewed by the Los Angeles Times.
“We see the power of vaccinations in our low metrics and reduced transmission,” L.A. County public health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement. “It is important to remember those who remain unvaccinated are at a greater risk of becoming infected with COVID-19 and a variant of concern.”
Other large counties in Southern California remain behind Los Angeles in the state’s plan, despite having similarly low COVID-19 case and positivity rates. But L.A. and San Francisco have been able to reopen further due to more widespread coronavirus testing.
In L.A. County Friday, officials reported another 421 new cases and 16 additional deaths.
In a news briefing Thursday, Ferrer said variants remain a large concern in L.A. County, with the U.K. and California variants remaining the most common. These are dangerous because there’s evidence they spread more easily, are more resistant to existing treatments and may generate a different immune response.
“We like many of you are enthusiastic about the opportunities to get out more and do the activities we love and miss, while recognizing that this recovery journey depends on us being honest about the risk and willing to continue to take actions that reduce opportunities for virus transmission,” Ferrer said.
As of Sunday, 39% of L.A. County residents were considered fully vaccinated. That includes two-thirds of those 65 and older and one-third of those younger who are eligible, according to Ferrer.
“We don’t know the exact number we need to vaccinate to achieve herd immunity. But what we do know is that reaching it requires everyone who can get vaccinated to go out and do that,” she said.