8 New Omicron Cases and 27 New Deaths of COVID-19 in Los Angeles County

LOS ANGELES, CA, Dec 17 – Public Health data suggests that public mask wearing is one of the most effective strategies at reducing the spread of the virus when compliance is high.

In L.A. County schools, where mask wearing is mandatory indoors, this practice (in combination with other mitigation strategies and outbreak management) has kept transmission low. This protective effect was demonstrable even in elementary schools before 5-11 year old were eligible for vaccines. With more than 1.55 million students across 3,000 L.A. County schools, Public Health is routinely seeing less than a dozen outbreaks each week.

Public and business sector masking compliance is high, indicating the broad understanding that this small behavior change adds a layer of protection that enables us to engage in our customary activities without endangering ourselves or others. Public Health regularly conducts site visits to assess mask compliance across a variety of L.A. County businesses, during which we determine compliance among customers, employees and their staff, and overall safety requirements. Out of more than 1500 site visits conducted between December 4th-10th, the vast majority of businesses and industries, including restaurants, bars, food markets and hair salons, had masking compliance rates above 95%.

Public Health notes yesterday’s endorsement by the Centers for Disease Control of updated recommendations made by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) for the prevention of COVID-19, expressing clinical preference for adults 18+ to receive an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine over Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine. As of December 12th, over 530,000 residents in L.A. County have received a dose of the Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine. We remind residents that L.A. County’s supply of mRNA vaccines is abundant and that when it is time to get a booster dose, individuals previously vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine should consider boosters with Pfizer or Moderna.

“Masking requirements reduce transmission without much disruption to people’s routines and allow businesses to reduce risk for their customers, and workers,” said Barbara Ferrer, PhD, MPH, MEd, Director of Public Health. “We would like to express our sincere appreciation to the business community of L.A. County for leading by example on masking as champions for public health. The take home message is clear: masking creates safety for employees and customers, reduces COVID transmission in our communities and helps everyone stay safe here in L.A. County.”

Ferrer continued, “We appreciate the CDC’s guidance on vaccine choice. While any vaccine is better than no vaccine, we urge those who have received Johnson and Johnson vaccines to obtain booster doses of Pfizer or Moderna vaccines to ensure they are well protected from both suffering severe Covid outcomes and transmitting infection to others.”

Today, Public Health confirmed 27 additional deaths and 3,360 new cases of COVID-19. Of the 27 new deaths reported today, two people who died were between the ages of 30 and 49, four were between the ages of 50 and 64, eight were between the ages of 65-79 and twelve were over the age of 80 years old. Of the 27 newly reported deaths, 22 had underlying conditions. To date, the total number of deaths in L.A. County is 27,413. Information on the one death reported by the City of Long Beach is available at: www.LongBeach.gov

Of the 8 new Omicron cases, five people were fully vaccinated and one received a booster. One person reported international travel and one person reported domestic travel.

Public Health has identified a total 1,556,685 positive cases of COVID-19 across all areas of L.A. County. Today’s positivity rate is 1.6%.

There are 772 people with COVID-19 currently hospitalized. Testing results are available for more than 9,720,000 individuals, with 15% of people testing positive.

Public Health would like to remind residents that getting vaccinated or boosted remains critical as holiday traveling and gatherings begin. Additionally, all residents across L.A. County should continue:

· Getting tested to help reduce the spread, especially if you traveled for the holidays, have had a possible exposure, or have symptoms, or are gathering with people not in your household.

· Adhering to masking requirements when indoors or at large outdoor mega events, regardless of vaccination status.

Residents are also reminded that they are legally required to be isolated if they have a positive COVID test result and that vaccinated close contacts with symptoms and unvaccinated close contacts need to be quarantined.

COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective and are recommended for everyone 5 years old and older to help protect against COVID-19. Vaccinations are always free and open to eligible residents and workers regardless of immigration status. Appointments are not needed at all Public Health vaccination sites and many community sites where first, second, and third doses are available.

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