LA County COVID-19 cases remain high, with another variable growing 2022-04-28 21:35:19

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) — It’s not an “increase” by any means, the director of public health said Thursday, but transmission of COVID-19 remains widespread across Los Angeles County, citing increases in key metrics used to track the virus and warning of a suddenly growing presence. For another more transferable variant.

In net numbers, Director of Public Health Barbara Ferrer reported 2,335 more COVID-19 infections in the county Thursday. She said the average daily number of new cases the county has registered over the past seven days has risen to 1,764, compared to 1,261 the previous week.

Ferrer said the average daily case count is three times the number a month ago.

It also indicated slight but steady increases over the past week in the number of people infected with the Coronavirus in provincial hospitals. The number increased to 249 on Thursday, up from 235 on Wednesday. The number of patients receiving treatment in intensive care was 30 patients, up from 28 patients the previous day.

Ferrer noted that those numbers are still relatively low compared to the winter numbers of more than 8000. She credited vaccines, treatments and widespread immunity from previous infections to prevent infected people from ending their hospitalization.

Health officials have warned in recent weeks that the rising case numbers may actually be greater than the numbers reflected in the test results — since many people are taking tests at home and may not report the results to the county. Many may not be tested at all because they have not become seriously ill.

Hoping to address these gaps, the county is monitoring COVID concentrations in four wastewater systems across the region. The latest findings show that the average concentration of virus found in most of those systems has risen sharply, with two showing nearly double the rate two weeks ago, and a third showing a sharp rise. But the fourth system monitored showed a slight decrease.

“This suggests that community transmission is increasing in areas covered by these sanitation systems,” Ferrer said.

It also noted an increase in outbreaks in homeless shelters and skilled nursing facilities, along with the previously observed rise in cases among school students and staff after spring break.

According to Freer, the BA.2 infectious variant of COVID-19 is now responsible for 88% of local cases that have undergone special testing to identify variants. BA.2 has been blamed for increasing infection numbers both locally and nationally, with officials saying it is significantly more transmissible than the omicron variant that fueled the winter wave of cases.

But now, there is another kind to worry about. Experts had previously identified a branch of BA.2 called BA.2.12.1, and now it is rapidly increasing its grip. This new branch was detected in 7% of Los Angeles County infections that got tested during the week that ended April 9 — up from 3% the week before.

Ferrer said state officials have estimated that BA.2.12.1 could account for half of all infections in California within days. She said experts have estimated that BA.2.12.1 increases infection by 20% to 30% over BA.2.

“It could quickly become a dominant strain across the United States,” Ferrer said, noting that the new branch represented 58% of cases tested in New York, New Jersey and Puerto Rico.

It is still not known whether BA.2.12.1 causes more serious disease or may be more resistant to vaccines.

The 2,335 new cases reported Thursday brought the county’s total from across the pandemic to 2,869,785. Eight more virus-related deaths were also reported Thursday, bringing the county’s death toll from the virus to 31,959.

The average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus was 1.8% as of Thursday.

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