Amid an uptick in cases, Los Angeles County is moving from a “low” to “medium” COVID-19 community level, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention community rating system, officials announced Thursday.
The seven-day average of daily reported COVID-19 cases nearly tripled over the past month, with 4,725 new cases reported Thursday, L.A. County Department of Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a briefing.
While the test positivity remains relatively low, the rate increased to 3.5% — that’s about two times higher than the rate reported a month ago on April 19, according to the Department of Public Health.
There is also a modest increase in hospitalizations, with the seven-day average of admissions reaching about 330 people, compared to about 230 a month ago. On Thursday, 379 people were hospitalized with the virus in L.A. County.
“This increase is an important reminder that for many, getting infected with COVID-19 does pose a serious risk,” Ferrer said. “Our hope is that as more people will take advantage of the protections that continue to be offered by vaccinations and boosters, the daily deaths will remain low.”
The county has been following its performance on the CDC community level indicator framework, which primarily assesses the pressure on the healthcare system, Ferrer explained. Since early March, L.A. County has met the criteria for the “low” community level, signaling that COVID-19 was not straining the healthcare system.
“We have now moved to the ‘medium’ community level, which is concerning since it could signal that the increases that we’re seeing in our COVID cases may soon put pressure on our healthcare resources,” the health director said.
When determining the CDC community transmission level, counties with a weekly case rate over 200 new cases per 100,000 people in the last seven days are automatically considered to be at either a medium or high community level.
This week, L.A. County’s weekly case rate hit 202 new cases per 100,000 residents.
“In order to avoid moving to the high community level, which signifies a very high transmission and stress on the healthcare system, residents, workers and businesses need to not shy away from reinstating or adhering to safety practices that are known to reduce transmission,” Ferrer said.
“Once we are designated a high community level, we will go back to requiring that everybody put on those masks indoors,” Ferrer added.
About 99% of recently sequenced specimens in the county have been identified as the highly infectious BA.2 omicron subvariant, or one of its sublineages.
“With the proliferation of highly infectious sub-lineages of Omicron, it is easier for infected individuals to unknowingly pass along the virus, resulting in many of us experiencing more spread associated with our gatherings and travel,” Ferrer said Wednesday.
L.A. County is the only Southern California county to be in the “medium” level as of Thursday, although 13 others across the state are at the same level.