COVID-19 cases continue to rise in LA County, highest numbers seen since February

Los Angeles County Health Department reported 2,767 new COVID-19 cases Thursday, up 80% from last week and the highest number since February. They also reported an additional 13 deaths. 

Case rates haven’t been this high since February. Health officials blame the highly infectious Delta variant for the recent surge in COVID-19 as well as the number of unvaccinated people.

Since the start of the pandemic, LA County has reported 1,276,137 cases and 24,607 deaths. The current number of those hospitalized stands at 645.   

LA County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer is urging everyone to get the vaccine in order to slow the spread of the virus. On Thursday, she said community transmission has increased, putting LA County in the ‘substantial transmission’ rank. 

According to County Health, unvaccinated and partially vaccinated people were 5.1 times more likely to become infected than fully vaccinated people. As of last week, there were still nearly 4 million residents in the county who were unvaccinated, including about 1.3 million children who are ineligible for the shots.

In the month of June, unvaccinated people accounted for 125 infections and 11 hospitalizations, while fully vaccinated people accounted for 27 infections and two hospitalizations, according to recent data from the health department.  

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"Because of the more infectious Delta variant and the intermingling of unmasked individuals where vaccination status is unknown, unfortunately, we are seeing a surge in cases in L.A. County that looks somewhat similar to last summer,'' Ferrer said. "An important difference this summer is that with millions of people vaccinated, we are hopeful we will avoid similar increases in deaths that were experienced last year.

She also stressed that fully vaccinated people who become infected generally have extremely mild cases -- a benefit the vaccines have always promised.

"Very few of them ended up hospitalized, and even smaller numbers ended up passing away,'' Ferrer said. She said the fact that people who are fully vaccinated are still getting infected should not be viewed as the shots being ineffective, and should not be used as an excuse for people to avoid getting the shots.

"While seat belts don't prevent every bad thing that can happen during a car accident, they do provide excellent protection, so much so that we all use them routinely,'' she said. "It wouldn't really make sense to not use a seat belt just because it doesn't prevent all injuries from car accidents. Rejecting a COVID vaccine because they don't offer 100% protection really ignores the powerful benefits we've experienced from those people who have gotten vaccinated.''

RELATED: LA County's indoor mask mandate officially back in effect Saturday night

Last week, LA County re-instated its mask mandate, in hopes of slowing transmission. The mandate means customers will again be required to mask up – regardless of vaccination status – when entering any indoor public establishment, including retail shops, grocery stores, bars, clubs, restaurants and workplaces. 

"By adding a mask requirement for everyone indoors, the risk for transmission of the virus will be reduced, and with increases in the number of people getting vaccinated, we should be able to get back to slowing the spread,'' Ferrer added.

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City News Service contributed to this report