COVID hospital, death numbers remain low in LA County amid case increases

With COVID-related hospital numbers and deaths remaining low despite rising case numbers, Los Angeles County health officials have touted what they called the effectiveness of vaccines and boosters in preventing serious illness from infection.

Over the past three days, another 7,709 new COVID-19 infections were recorded in the county, according to the Department of Public Health. More than 3,200 of those cases were registered Saturday, with lower numbers on Sunday and Monday likely reflecting standard weekend reporting delays.

But while the case numbers have risen sharply over the last month -- attributed to spread of the highly infectious BA.2 subvariant of the virus -- the number of COVID-positive hospital patients has still remained relatively low, as have virus-related deaths.

As of Monday, there were 242 COVID-positive patients in county hospitals, according to state figures. That's down six from Sunday. The number of those patients being treated in intensive care was 27 as of Monday, down from 33 on Sunday.

The county registered only five new virus-related deaths from the past three days.

The county no longer reports COVID numbers on weekends.

"The lower numbers of hospitalizations and deaths reflect, in large part, the protection provided by the vaccines against the variants," according to the county Department of Public Health. "For the week ending April 22, unvaccinated people were four times more likely to be hospitalized compared to residents who were fully vaccinated, but not boosted, and five times more likely to be hospitalized than those fully vaccinated and boosted."

According to the county, over the last week, the county has averaged four virus-related deaths per day, a 72% decrease from a month ago. The average daily number of virus-positive hospital patients averaged 245, roughly the same as it was a month ago.

Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer again urged people to get vaccinated and boosted, noting that Memorial Day and its accompanying gatherings are fast approaching.

"For these occasions to not contribute to the increasing spread of Omicron variants, we encourage attendees to take sensible precautions that will protect you and those around you, including staying outside as much as possible and wearing a mask when indoors," she said in a statement. "And given the high number of asymptomatic individuals that are infected, testing before gathering with others, especially if gathering indoors, is an effective and practical safety measure that can easily prevent the spread of the virus. Most importantly, those who are older and those who have underlying heath conditions should be sure to get boosted as soon as eligible to maximize protection from these highly infectious, mutated variants of concern."

The new cases announced Monday lifted the county's cumulative number of infections throughout the pandemic to 2,895,400. The county's death toll reached 31,996.

The average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus was 2.1% as of Monday.