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Thursday, March 23, 2023

COVID-19 Still Rising in LA County, Ferrer Says, Warns Strengthening BA.2 Subvariant

Covid-19 Still Rising In La County, Ferrer Says, Warns Strengthening Ba.2 Subvariant

It’s not a “boom” by any means, but COVID-19 transmission continues to be widespread in Los Angeles County, the director of public health said on Thursday, April 28, in key metrics used to track the virus. The increase and the warning of a sudden increase in the appearance of an even more communicative version.

In net numbers, Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer reported a further 2,335 COVID infections in the county on Thursday. He said the daily average number of new cases reported by the county in the past seven days rose to 1,764 from 1,261 last week.

Ferrer said the daily average case count is almost triple the number a month ago.

He also noted that there has been a small but steady increase in the number of COVID-positive people in county hospitals over the past week. The number rose to 249 on Thursday, from 235 on Wednesday. The number of patients being treated in intensive care rose to 30 from 28 a day earlier.

Ferrer said those numbers are still relatively low when compared to winter growth numbers above 8,000. He credits widespread vaccination, therapeutics and immunity from prior infection to preventing people becoming infected from being hospitalized.

Health officials have warned in recent weeks that the number of rising cases could actually be larger than the figures reflected by test results—as many people are testing at home and not reporting results to the county. And many others are not getting tested at all because they are not becoming seriously ill.

In hopes of combating those loopholes, the county monitors the concentrations of COVID in four wastewater systems across the region. The most recent results show that the average concentration of virus found in most of those systems has increased rapidly, with two increasing nearly twice the rate two weeks ago and a third more rapidly. But the fourth system monitored actually showed a slight decrease.

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

He noted a rise in outbreaks at homeless shelters and skilled nursing facilities, as well as a previously mentioned increase in cases among school students and staff after the spring break.

According to Ferrer, the infectious BA.2 subvariant of COVID-19 now accounts for 88% of localized cases, which undergo special testing to identify the variant. BA.2 has been blamed for raising infection numbers locally and nationally, with officials saying it is increasingly more permeable than the Omicron version that fueled a winter surge in cases.

But now, there’s another type to worry about. Experts had earlier identified a branch of BA.2 named as BA.2.12.1, and now it is rapidly expanding its hold. That new offshoot was detected in 7% of infections in LA county tested during the week ending April 9 — up from 3% the previous week.

Ferrer said state officials have estimated that BA.2.12.1 could represent half of all infections in California in just a few days. She said experts have estimated that BA.2.12.1 is about 20% to 30% more contagious than BA.2.

World Nation News Desk
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