AMTV/LOS ANGELES, Jan 11 – With respiratory virus transmission and hospitalizations remaining elevated in Los Angeles County, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (Public Health) is asking residents to help limit exposures and take common sense precautions.
Public Health data shows that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is widely circulating in the County, with wastewater concentrations of the virus at 60% of last year’s winter peak, up from 49% the week prior.
COVID-19 hospitalizations also remain elevated, with an average of 806 COVID-positive patients per day for the week ending Jan. 6, an increase from 784 the week prior. Los Angeles County’s COVID-19 Hospital Admission Level, as defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), remains in Medium for the second consecutive week at 11.2 new COVID-19 hospital admissions per 100,000 people for data through Dec. 30.
This increase is likely driven in part by the rise of a new COVID-19 strain, JN.1. Local data shows JN.1 is gaining dominance rapidly in Los Angeles County and CDC modelling data predicts it accounts for 61% of sequenced specimens in Region 9, which includes California, for the two-week period ending Jan. 6.
Flu activity also remains elevated in Los Angeles County. There was an average of 425 influenza-positive patients in the hospital per day for the week ending Dec. 30. For the week ending Dec. 30, 18.3% of specimens tested for influenza at sentinel surveillance laboratories were positive, a slight decline from the previous week yet still nearly double levels seen four weeks ago. Although the decline in the most recent week is an encouraging sign, it is still too soon to tell if flu activity has peaked for this season.
With respiratory viruses expected to remain in circulation for weeks to come, it’s not too late to get the updated COVID-19 and flu vaccines. Both vaccines remain effective at reducing severe illness and are recommended for everyone 6 months and older. Find a vaccination site at myturn.ca.gov.
This week, Public Health released new instructions for COVID-19 cases and close contacts. The notable change is to the amount of time a COVID-19 case is required to isolate, which was made in alignment with updated isolation guidance released by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and with Cal/OSHA guidance for workplaces. As a reminder, all individuals who test positive need to wear a well-fitting, high-quality mask for a total of 10 days after their symptoms began or, if they do not have symptoms, the date of their initial positive test, whenever they are around others. This includes individuals who test positive and have no symptoms or only mild symptoms. Under the new instructions, individuals who test positive for COVID-19 and have symptoms can leave isolation once they are fever free for 24 hours without using fever-reducing medication AND other symptoms are mild and improving, provided they wear a well-fitting high-quality mask when around others for 10 days following symptom onset.
Individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 and have no symptoms are not required to isolate provided they wear a well-fitting, high-quality respiratory mask whenever they are around other people for 10 days following their positive test result. It remains strongly recommended that an individual test for COVID-19 prior to ending isolation and extend isolation until day 10 if they continue to test positive. Previous guidance required individuals to isolate for at least five days if they tested positive regardless of symptoms.
Other aspects of the updated instructions largely mirror previous Public Health instructions. Key highlights include:
Masking for persons who test positive for COVID-19 – When around others, all individuals who test positive need to wear a well-fitting, high-quality respiratory mask for 10 days after their symptoms began or, if they do not have symptoms, from the date of their initial positive test. This is because individuals who are positive for COVID-19 are considered infectious starting two days before their symptoms began and for 10 days after symptoms began or the first positive test if no symptoms.
Testing for close contacts – With easy access to at-home testing for COVID-19, it is important for individuals to assess their status if they have respiratory symptoms or had a known exposure to a person infected with COVID-19. Public Health advises everyone who is a close contact to a confirmed case to test immediately if they have symptoms and within 3-5 days of their last exposure date if they are not symptomatic.
Ability for more protective policies – Businesses, organizations and schools can continue to implement more protective policies to protect their employees, students and customers, including adhering to the prior guidance on isolation for those testing positive for COVID-19.
Additional details are available on LAPH website.
Free at-home COVID-19 tests are readily available throughout Los Angeles County from libraries, community-based organizations, food banks and senior centers. They also are available through the federal government by mail and at retail pharmacies with a California health insurance plan. To find a free COVID-19 test, visit ph.lacounty.gov/COVIDtests.
To reduce the risk of severe illness from respiratory viruses, residents should talk to a health care provider about oral antivirals soon after experiencing symptoms, such as coughing, sneezing, sore throat or fever. Medicine to treat flu and COVID-19 are readily available throughout Los Angeles County and reduce the risk of severe illness. Providers may prescribe antivirals for flu, including Tamiflu, ideally within 48 hours of symptom onset. Paxlovid, the antiviral medication that treats COVID-19 infection should be started
within five days of testing positive or developing symptoms of COVID-19.
Public Health continues to offer many free resources, such as vaccines, tests and treatment, to reduce the impact of COVID-19 in Los Angeles County, regardless of a person’s insurance or immigration status. Public Health staff remain available to answer questions about COVID-19 and help residents access community resources through the Public Health InfoLine at 1-833-540-0473, seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Public Health reports COVID-19 data weekly. The following table shows case, wastewater, emergency department, hospitalization, and death data in Los Angeles County over the past four weeks.