LOS ANGELES - Nearly 4,600 new COVID-19 infections were reported Thursday in Los Angeles County, with the public health director again noting the actual figure is likely much higher due to the prevalence of take-home testing, while the number of virus-positive hospital patients held mostly steady.
The 4,583 new cases gave the county a cumulative total from throughout the pandemic of 3,051,930. The county also reported nine more virus-related deaths, raising the death toll to 32,245.
According to state figures, there were 605 COVID-positive patients in county hospitals as of Thursday, down slightly from 606 the previous day. Of those patients, 65 were being treated in intensive care, the same number as Wednesday.
Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said the county has actually started to see a decline in the average daily number of new infections, with the seven-day average now about 4,700, compared to 4,900 a week ago. But she stressed that the actual number of COVID infections in the community is likely much higher, since many people are now using take-home tests, the results of which are not typically reported to the county.
The average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus rose to 8.2% on Thursday, up from 6.7% a day earlier. Ferrer again noted that the positivity rate is expected to rise due to the sudden drop in mass testing of students and staff at schools across the county, given the start of the summer break.
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She said most residents who go to county testing sites are doing so because they are either feeling sick or they were exposed to the virus, giving them a higher likelihood of testing positive. With schools out of session, the number of asymptomatic people undergoing routine testing each week has dropped dramatically, which will translate into a higher testing positivity rate across the county.
Ferrer again estimated that the county could move into the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's "high" virus activity category by late June. If the county remains in the "high" category for two straight weeks, the county will re-impose a universal indoor mask-wearing mandate, she said.
The county is currently in the CDC's "medium" level of COVID activity. It will move into the "high" category if its average daily rate of new COVID-related hospital admissions rises above 10 per 100,000 residents, or if the percentage of staffed hospital beds occupied by COVID-positive patients tops 10%.
The figures have both been slowly rising over the past several weeks, with the rate of new admissions reaching 7.3 per 100,000 residents as of Thursday, up from 7.2 on Tuesday. The portion of hospital beds in the county occupied by virus patients was 3.5% as of Thursday, up from 3.3% on Tuesday.
Masks are still mandatory in high-risk settings such as healthcare facilities, aboard transit vehicles and in transit centers and airports, in correctional facilities and at long-term care facilities.