LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – The number of coronavirus patients in Los Angeles County hospitals topped 600 on Saturday, amid concerns of another possible rise in fall and winter infections and the presence of the new variant Omicron in Los Angeles County.
There were 610 COVID patients in county hospitals on Saturday, up from 572 on Friday, according to the latest state figures. Of those, 146 were in intensive care, up just one from Friday.
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Also on Saturday, the county reported 2,307 new cases of COVID-19 and 20 additional deaths associated with the virus, bringing its cumulative totals to 1,534,720 cases and 27,442 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
On Friday, the mobile average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus was 1%.
Meanwhile, a rapid test site opened at Los Angeles International Airport on Friday to offer free – but voluntary – COVID testing to arriving international passengers.
The COVID test at the Tom Bradley International Terminal is offered strictly on a voluntary basis, as there is no federal requirement for incoming passengers to be tested.
“The federal government strongly recommends that people get tested,” county public health director Barbara Ferrer said Thursday. âWe’ll also have our health workers there, talking to people, making sure they understand the importance of testing. We use a rapid antigen test there, so people can get their results before they leave the airport. “
She added that anyone who tests negative will receive a take-home test kit so they can test themselves again three to five days later.
Health officials are re-calling for people to get tested for COVID if they develop symptoms, and also if they have traveled during the Thanksgiving vacation abroad or to states with it. high rates of virus transmission.
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âAs we move into winter and take on the Omicron variant, using what we’ve learned over the past two years will make a big difference to friends and families who prepare to reunite for the holidays and for those most at risk, “Ferrer said in a statement Friday. . âWe are grateful to our partners for the encouraging trends, as at least 80% of homeless people have received their second dose of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, and appreciate the continued efforts to improve coverage. “
The county public health department reported a further drop in the rate of infections among the homeless on Friday, with just 44 new cases for the week ending November 14, compared to 63 for the week of October 11.
Just hours after plans for the airport test facility were announced on Thursday, the county confirmed the first local case of the Omicron variant, which has been named a ‘variant of concern’ by the World Organization. health report last week, and by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week.
The variant was first detected in South Africa, and it has now spread to dozens of other countries, and several. American states. The first American case was confirmed in San Francisco on Wednesday.
The local Omicron patient confirmed Thursday afternoon is a Los Angeles County resident who returned to the region on November 22 after traveling to South Africa via London. The infection was considered “very likely to be travel related”. The unidentified patient is fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and has symptoms that are improving, health officials said. The person’s close contacts have all tested negative for the virus.
It remains unclear whether the variant is more highly transmissible than other forms of the virus, or whether it causes more severe disease or may escape the protection offered by current vaccines. But its rapid spread in South Africa has raised alarm bells, particularly ahead of the winter holiday season and the travel and gatherings that accompany it.
According to the latest county figures, of the more than 6.1 million fully vaccinated people in the county, 80,445 have tested positive, or about 1.32 percent. A total of 2,680 vaccinated people were hospitalized, for a rate of 0.044%, and 503 died, for a rate of 0.008%.
So far, 83% of county residents aged 12 and over have received at least one dose of the vaccine and 74% are fully immunized. Of all eligible residents aged 5 and over, 76% have received at least one dose and 68% are fully immunized.
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Black residents continue to have the lowest rate of vaccinees, with just 55% having received at least one dose. The rate is 60% among Latino / a residents, 73% among white residents and 82% among Asians.