L.A. County COVID cases expected to climb as school resumes with routine testing

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Families attend a back to school event offering school supplies, COVID-19 vaccinations, face masks and other resources for children and their families at the Weingart East Los Angeles YMCA on Aug. 7, 2021. (Patrick T. Fallon / AFP / Getty Images)

Families attend a back to school event offering school supplies, COVID-19 vaccinations, face masks and other resources for children and their families at the Weingart East Los Angeles YMCA on Aug. 7, 2021. (Patrick T. Fallon / AFP / Getty Images)

With Los Angeles public schools set to resume in-person learning next week with a weekly coronavirus testing requirement, public health officials warned Tuesday that cases are expected to climb in the region.

L.A. Unified, the nation’s second-largest school district, resumes in-person instruction Monday. Students and faculty at several other large districts and universities with their own testing requirements will also be returning in the coming weeks.

“We expect to see tens of thousands more test results each day, and in parallel with these we will see an increase in our cases,” L.A. County public health Director Barbara Ferrer told the county Board of Supervisors Tuesday.

The news comes after Ferrer said last week that the latest surge appeared to be “leveling out.”

Since then, the county’s daily test positivity rate has dropped more than two percentage points to 4.4%, while the case rate is hovering around where it was last week at 24 cases per 100,000 people.

But COVID-19 transmission remains high in the region, even if it’s no longer growing rapidly. On Tuesday, the county reported 2,622 new infections and 22 more virus-related deaths.

There were more than 1,400 people battling the disease at hospitals countywide, after officials said Monday the county’s COVID-19 hospitalizations had nearly doubled in the past two weeks.

The virus is now spreading fastest among unvaccinated adults ages 18 to 49, though hospitalization rates are highest among older unvaccinated adults, Ferrer said.

Between April and July, 94% of all COVID-19 deaths countywide were unvaccinated people, according to Ferrer.

“If everyone eligible were to get vaccinated, we would end up avoiding so much of the anxiety and distress that comes with having a loved one hospitalized with COVID, and almost no one would pass away from this infection,” she said.

When health officials examined case data on nearly 300 people hospitalized over the past two months, only five of them were fully vaccinated and admitted due to COVID-19 complications, said Dr. Christina Ghaly, director of the county Department of Health Services.

The county’s vaccination rate is increasing slightly, and more than 81,000 doses were administered between July 26 and Aug. 1, Ferrer said.

In the last two weeks of July, nearly every city and community in the county saw an increase in vaccine coverage, and 40% of the neighborhoods with the biggest growth were in central and South-Central L.A., Ferrer said.

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