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Home Health Cases dip slightly; numbers still alarming

Cases dip slightly; numbers still alarming

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Los Angeles County Public Health officials reported Wednesday that the county’s daily number of COVID-19 cases and testing positivity rate were both possibly on the decline, but warned that both numbers remain still too high for residents to think the end is in sight.

On Jan. 8, the daily average number of cases was more than 15,000, but as of this week dropped to almost 10,000, said Barbara Ferrer, the director of the Public Health Department, during a media briefing.

The daily test positivity rate was also on the decline, with the test positivity rate reaching a peak of more than 20% over a 7-day average on Dec. 31 to 14.6% on Jan. 15, and dropping again to 14% on Jan. 20.

Despite expressing optimism regarding the latest figures following a holiday leap in the total number of case — Ferrer emphasized that the numbers remain too high and people should not begin to let their guard down just yet.

“While it’s too soon to tell if we’re actually seeing a significant decline in the surge, especially because testing sites were closed for the holiday weekend, and there is slightly less testing capacity with the conversion of Dodger Stadium to a vaccination location, we are very hopeful that the action taken by many are starting to work,” said Ferrer. “Unfortunately, even if cases are beginning to decline, these numbers are still really high, and they’re continuing to drive overcrowding in hospitals and a high number of deaths.”

In the last 24 hours, Ferrer said 262 new COVID-19 related deaths were reported in the county, as well as 6,492 cases. These new figures bring the total number of countywide deaths to 14,384 and the total number of cases since the onset of the pandemic to 1,038,092.

Ferrer cautioned that Wednesday’s daily case count was impacted in part due to a testing backlog and county sites being closed over the holidays, which likely contributed to lower numbers.

She added that 7,253 people are currently hospitalized throughout the county, 23% of whom are in the ICU. Of those in the ICU, 21% are on ventilators, and California’s most recent numbers from Tuesday show 0.0% ICU available capacity for the Southern California region.

Ferrer said the number of hospitalizations had dropped from an average of 8,000 on Jan. 5 to 7,383 on Jan. 15, but hammered the same messaging she had on the decline in test positivity and cases.

“This is still a very large number of COVID patients and our hospitals are inundated with people suffering from serious health problems because of COVID-19,” she said. “So, the end is not yet in sight. With high numbers of daily cases, hundreds more people will require hospitalizations.”

Public Health officials also shared an update on the progress of its vaccination rollout.

Vaccine Rollout

Ferrer also said Wednesday the county continues to receive and administer over 100,000 vaccines a week.

However, she said while those age 65 and older are now allowed to register for a COVID-19 vaccination appointment as of Wednesday, the availability of appointment times is dependent on the county’s limited vaccine supply.

Ferrer said the “serious supply problem” was largely due to people needing two doses to be completely vaccinated, as well as the county receiving inconsistent weekly shipments from the state and federal government.

“The biggest challenge we face is not one of process or capacity, but of supply,” said Ferrer. “To county residents who are 65 and older, please understand that how soon you can get a vaccination depends on the number of doses we receive every week.”

Ferrer said the planning is challenging at times for Public Health because it receives its allocation on a weekly basis, with some allotments from the state and federal government fluctuating week to week.

As of Wednesday, the county has received 853,650 doses, but the county will need over 4 million doses to vaccinate all eligible health care workers and residents age 65 and older with both required injections. L.A. County has received an average of 110,000-160,000 doses every week since December, with approximately 144,000 vaccinations in this week’s shipment.

However, of next week’s allocation of vaccines, 106,000 doses, or approximately 73% of the county’s weekly supply, will be allocated to those needing a second dose. The remaining doses will then be used for first doses, Ferrer said.

“We’re just not receiving enough vaccine doses to move as quickly as we, and you, would like us to,” said Ferrer.

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