Beginning yet another year with a COVID-19 surge, Los Angeles County on Monday surpassed 2 million coronavirus cases recorded since the pandemic began.
The county hit the “grim milestone” as an omicron-fueld COVID-19 surge was driving infection numbers to record levels and straining testing capacity throughout the region.
The surge has also been contributing to increasing hospitalizations, with the number of coronavirus-positive patients at L.A. County hospitals topping 3,400 — the highest level since February last year.
“With surging transmission and rapidly rising cases and hospitalizations, our already understaffed health care providers are under enormous strain as they try to care for so many COVID infected people,” L.A. County Health Director Barbara Ferrer said.
About 14% of the patients with COVID-19 were in the ICU, and 7% were on a ventilator.
“The good news is that while hospitalizations continue to climb, Public Health data shows that many positive cases are admitted for reasons other than COVID but, are identified with COVID when tested for COVID upon hospital admission,” the health department said in a news release.
Health officials on Monday also highlighted concerns over child hospitalizations.
While the number of children hospitalized with the virus remains low, L.A. County did note that the number of children admitted to hospitals “significantly increased” over the past month.
The largest increase was seen among children younger than 5 years old, with hospitalizations increasing from 4 admissions during the week of Dec. 4, to 58 hospital admissions the week of Jan. 1, according to the health department.
That mirrors trends seen nationwide for the age group — the only one not yet eligible for the vaccine.
Hospitalizations of U.S. children under 5 with COVID-19 have soared to their highest level since the pandemic began, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data released last week.
“While it is true that Omicron is much more infectious than previous COVID strains, there are many effective strategies available for reducing transmission risks over the next few weeks,” Ferrer said.
She asked residents to avoiding “hazardous activities” where people go unmasked and gather in close contact with others.
“Gatherings should also be postponed for a few weeks, especially if there are participants who are not fully vaccinated, and everyone cannot test before getting together,” Ferrer said,
The health director also advised residents to upgrade their masks to better protect against catching the virus.