The number of Los Angeles County people getting treatment in hospitals for COVID-19-related conditions continued to skyrocket on Sunday, Jan. 9, rising by another 164 patients, to 3,364, according to the state’s dashboard.
Of those patients, 435 were in intensive care, an increase of 25. While still well short of the peak hospitalization numbers seen last winter — when more than 8,000 COVID-positive patients filled hospitals —the rising number is nonetheless generating concern amid the weeks-long winter surge socking the county.
The county reported on Saturday 34,448 new positive COVID-19 tests and 16 additional deaths associated with the virus amid an accelerated surge in transmission driven by the Omicron variant.
Public health officials have posted more than 200,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases over the past 7 days, the highest number in one week since the beginning of the pandemic, health officials said.
Although evidence indicates the swiftly spreading omicron variant delivers symptoms less severe than its predecessors, officials continue to worry that the winter wave of infections could swamp hospital teams. Health care facilities are finding themselves increasingly short-staffed, in part because of COVID infections among health care workers.
Officials are facing overcrowded emergency rooms, in part because people are seeking treatment for COVID-linked symptoms or hoping to get a coronavirus test. Hospital officials urge residents not to seek treatment at ERs unless the condition is severe and to sign up for testing at the myriad clinics around the region.
Amid intensified demand fueled by the booming caseload, long, winding lines and hours-long waits have resulted at many testing centers. In response to the intensified demand fueled by the booming caseload, the latest in a flurry of new testing centers will open Monday.
The Industry Hills Expo Center at 16200 Temple Ave. will be converted into a testing center, operated and staffed by Total Testing Solutions. The site will feature multiple lanes with a capacity of up to 1,000 vehicles.
A new drive-thru COVID-19 testing center in the City of Industry will offer dual COVID-19 PCR and Influenza A & B (flu virus) test results will be offered. The COVID site will conduct testing Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. through Jan. 31.
Appointments are strongly encouraged and can be made online at www.TotalTestingSolutions.com.
Long Beach officials announced an expanded drive-thru and walk-up testing site that will open Monday in the former Boeing parking lot near 3590 E. Wardlow Road. That site will have the capacity to test 3,000 people a day.
The Boeing site will be open from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2:30 to 5 p.m. weekdays, effective Jan. 10. Testing appointments can be made at longbeach.gov/covid19testing or by calling 562-570-4636.
Another new COVID testing site opened this weekend in Santa Monica —in the former Sears building at 302 Colorado Ave. — with the capacity to test up to 1,920 people daily.
The expansion comes as the Omicron variant of the coronavirus is fueling record numbers of infections in the county and nationwide. On Friday, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the activation the California National Guard to help provide additional testing facilities and capacity amid the rise in demand.
“As the surge continues, we ask residents and businesses to continue following the public health safety measures that we know reduce spread and keep people safe,” county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Saturday. “This includes wearing a medical grade mask that is more protective against the Omicron variant and not spending time around others who are unmasked. These upgraded masks can be a surgical mask or an N95 or KN95 respirator mask.”
Officials also urged residents to reconsider attending high-risk activities, including indoor activities where individuals are unmasked for long periods of time, and crowded outdoor events.
The county’s rolling average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus was 20.4% as of Saturday. Overall, more than 10,269,000 individuals have been tested, with 17% of people testing positive to date, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
According to the county health department, 973 infections among health care workers were reported over the past week, a jump of 47% from the prior period. That rise comes despite the relatively high rate of vaccinations among health care workers — showing the power of the Omicron variant of the virus to infect even vaccinated residents, although they are less likely to become severely ill.
The state is requiring all health care workers in the state to receive a booster dose of vaccine by Feb. 1. Those who do not receive the booster must be tested twice weekly.
“Keeping health care workers safe is critical to maintaining functionality across our health care facilities when surges lead to staffing shortages and rising rates of hospitalizations,” Ferrer said Friday. “Across multiple health care settings, our health care personnel have given their all and been fully vaccinated at high levels for many months.
“Every resident can also do their part to protect our health care personnel and hospitals. Please get vaccinated or boosted as soon as possible if eligible. Vaccinated individuals are between 10 and 30 times less likely to need hospital care than those unvaccinated. We ask that you do not go to the emergency room unless you need care for a serious medical concern and please do not call 911 unless you have a life-threatening emergency.”
The county set a single-day record for COVID-19 infections on Friday, reporting 43,712 new cases. Saturday’s data brought the county’s cumulative totals to 1,921,890 cases and 27,772 fatalities since the pandemic began.
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Saturday unveiled a proposed $2.7 billion COVID-19 emergency response package as part of his next budget proposal, including a $1.4 billion emergency appropriation request to bolster testing capacity, accelerate vaccination and booster efforts, support frontline workers, strengthen the health care system and “battle misinformation.”
On Friday, Newsom announced the activation the California National Guard to help provide additional testing facilities and capacity amid the national surge in cases driven by the Omicron variant.
“California has led the country’s fight against COVID-19, implementing first-in-the-nation public health measures that have helped save tens of thousands of lives,” Newsom said. “We continue to support communities in their response to COVID by bolstering testing capacity.”
The announcement comes as Omicron continues to spread rapidly across the globe, accounting for at least 80% of COVID-19 cases in California.
Surging infection numbers prompted LA County to amend its public health order last week, requiring employers to provide upgraded masks to employees who work indoors in close contact with others.
The order, issued Wednesday, will take effect Jan. 17 and requires employers to provide affected workers with “well-fitting medical grade masks, surgical masks, or higher-level respirators, such as N95 or KN95 masks.”
The revised order also amended the definition of outdoor “mega events,” where masking is required, to 5,000 or more attendees; and the definition of indoor “mega” events to 500 or more people. The numbers align with those in the state’s health order. The county’s order also “recommends” that food and drink be consumed only in designated dining areas.
The upgraded mask requirement for county workplaces mirrors an order released late last week by the county for K-12 schools, requiring teachers and staff to wear higher-grade face coverings. USC announced this week it will require all students and staff to wear higher-grade masks when in-person classes resume.
According to county figures released Thursday, of the more than 6.4 million fully vaccinated people in the county, 199,314 have tested positive for the virus, for a rate of 3.1%, while 3,348 have been hospitalized, for a rate of 0.05%. A total of 625 fully vaccinated people have died, for a rate of 0.01%.
The testing-positivity rate, however, may be artificially low due to the number of people who use take-home tests and don’t report the results.
Overall, 79% of eligible county residents aged 5 and older have received at least one dose of vaccine, while 71% are fully vaccinated. Of the county’s overall population of 10.3 million people, 75% have received at least one dose, and 67% are fully vaccinated.
City News Service contributed to this report