AMTV/LOS ANGELES, CA, Dec 30 – As people prepare for New Year’s celebrations, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (Public Health) urges everyone to practice three simple steps: testing before gathering, masking while indoors or in very crowded outdoor spaces, and staying home when sick.
Although this week, Los Angeles County remains in Medium Community Level, based on its case rate and hospitalization numbers, winter holiday travel and celebrations could lead to a rise in COVID-19 cases, similar to what was experienced after Thanksgiving. A few sensible precautions can help prevent another post-holiday surge.
Step 1: To reduce the spread of the disease, Los Angeles County residents are asked to take an at-home COVID-19 test before attending New Year’s celebrations. This is especially important for people who have recently traveled or attended other gatherings. Some people with COVID-19 may be pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic and unaware of their infection status. Without testing, they may unintentionally spread the disease to others, including to people at higher risk for severe illness should they become infected.
COVID-19 health risks are highest for people over 50 and people who are immunocompromised or have underlying health issues.
Tests are readily available over the counter and insurance companies are required to reimburse the cost of eight tests per month per member. Each household may also receive four free tests shipped to their home by ordering at COVIDtests.gov. For more information on testing, visit ph.lacounty.gov/covidtests.
Step 2: Residents are asked to continue to wear a mask in indoor public spaces and in very crowded outdoor spaces. Masking is one of the strongest tools to help prevent transmission and a post-holiday COVID-19 surge. For the best protection, well-fitting, high-filtration masks, preferably N95s, KN95s or KF94s, should be worn securely over the nose and mouth.
While some people may experience COVID-19 symptoms, such as a fever, coughing and sneezing, a few days after exposure, it can take up to 10 days for others to test positive or display symptoms of infection. During that time, they can shed virus and unintentionally expose others to the disease.
In order to avoid outbreaks at businesses and schools, Public Health officials ask that everyone wear a mask for at least the first 10 days when returning to work and school after their winter holiday break.
Step 3: Residents should stay home when sick. Even if they test negative for COVID-19, other respiratory illnesses are circulating at high levels this winter, including flu and respiratory syncytial virus, and both viruses can cause serious illness, hospitalizations, and death.
Mortality remains very high for COVID in Los Angeles County, especially when compared to other respiratory viruses. Since October 2022, 746 county residents died of COVID-related illness. By comparison, over this same time period, there were 43 known flu-related deaths in Los Angeles County, though CDC modeling data estimates the true number was closer to 360 people.
With COVID-19 transmission levels still high, Los Angeles County residents are urged to wash their hands frequently, get the new bivalent booster and, if they test positive and have symptoms, such as fever, coughing, sneezing, unusual fatigue or muscle aches, take oral antiviral medications within five days of symptom onset.
The new bivalent booster can protect against both the original virus that causes COVID-19 and Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants. The bivalent booster is also expected to provide protection against the newer BQ strains, which are sublineages of BA.5. More than 6 million residents who are eligible for the booster have not yet received it and are encouraged to do so.
These updated boosters, plus flu vaccines, are readily available at Public Health sites, pharmacies, and other locations across the county. Go to VaccinateLACounty.com to find nearby vaccination sites, request a mobile vaccination team for your worksite or community event, or an in-home visit if you or someone you know is homebound. Insurance is not required, and callers can be assisted in multiple languages, regardless of immigration status.
If a person tests positive for COVID-19 and has symptoms, oral antiviral medications, such as Paxlovid, are available by prescription. A person may speak to their provider, access telehealth services by contacting Public Health at 1-833-540-0473 or find resources at ph.lacounty.gov/covidmedicines. These medications should be started within five days of symptom onset and may be taken at home.
Resources are available for anyone who tests positive or has COVID symptoms, even if their health care provider is closed for the holiday. Test to treat sites, where tests and prescriptions for medications, if appropriate, are open throughout Los Angeles County. To find a site or for more information, visit ph.lacounty.gov/covidmedicines.
“For those who have lost a loved one to COVID-19, I extend my deepest sympathies. I wish you peace and healing in the upcoming year,” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, PhD, MPH, MEd, Director of Public Health. “I am hopeful that we can get through this winter without the devastation witnessed during our previous two winter surges, while recognizing that there are still significant risks, especially with the potential of a new COVID strain. Collectively, our actions can make for a safe and healthy 2023 and I do want to thank everyone from the bottom of my heart who has been taking steps to prevent transmission, helping to lower our numbers and save people’s lives.”
The 7-day average case count in the county is 2,359, a 9% decrease from one week ago when the 7-day average of 2,595 cases was reported.
And over the past seven days, the average number of daily COVID-positive patients in LA County hospitals is 1,207, nearly the same as last week when the average number of COVID-positive patients per day was 1,235.
The county is currently reporting an average of 16 deaths per day, a welcomed decrease from the average of 22 deaths reported per day a week ago.
Today, Public Health reported 28 additional deaths and 3,410 new positive cases. Of the 28 new deaths reported today, three people were between the ages of 50 to 64, eight people were between the ages of 65 to 79, and 14 people were aged 80 years or older. For information on the three deaths reported by the City of Long Beach, visit longbeach.gov. Of the 28 newly reported deaths, 24 had underlying health conditions. To date, the total number of deaths in L.A. County is 34,671.
Public Health has reported a total of 3,631,736 positive cases of COVID-19 across all areas of L.A. County. Today’s positivity rate is 15.0 %.
There are 1,249 people with COVID-19 currently hospitalized. Testing results are available for more than 12,821,824 individuals, with 25% of people testing positive.