LA County re-enters "high" COVID-19 community level

As COVID-19 cases rise, Los Angeles County re-entered the federal government's "high" COVID-19 community activity category Thursday. 

The county moved into the "high" category when the weekly rate of new infections reached 200 per 100,000 residents. During LA Public Health's media briefing Thursday, Dr. Barbara Ferrer said today's case rate is 258 per 100,000 people. 

She said this is increasing by 6% per day.

Moving into the "high" category also moves the county closer to the possible return of an indoor mask-wearing mandate.

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It is unknown if or when the mask mandate will return. Ferrer originally said the county will re-impose an indoor mask mandate if it moves into the "high" category and if the county's virus-related hospitalization numbers reach two thresholds:

  • if the rate of daily hospital admissions tops 10 per 100,000 residents; and
  • if the percent of staffed hospital beds occupied by COVID patients tops 10%

The county has already surpassed the first threshold, with the rate of daily hospital admissions already at 14.8 per 100,000 residents as of Thursday. The percent of hospital beds occupied by COVID patients was 6.9% as of Thursday, still below the 10% threshold.

Ferrer said the health department's initial projections showed that the hospital bed percentage would reach 10% by Dec. 20, but she said admission numbers appear to have leveled off in the past three days, meaning it may be longer before the figure reaches 10% -- if at all.

Ferrer said the move will not trigger a return to any lockdowns or business closures that were imposed at the height of the pandemic. But she warned that being in the "high" category means the virus is rampant in the area, and the odds of being exposed are growing.

She noted that with the current infection rate, there's an 80% to 90% chance that at least one person is infected with the virus at an event or gathering of 200 people.

Masks are still required indoors at health-care and congregate-care facilities, for anyone exposed to the virus in the past 10 days, and at businesses where they are required by the owner.

In other indoor locations, masking is only "strongly recommended" by the county.

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On Thursday, the county reported an average of 3,800 new infections per day over the past seven days, a 40% increase from the previous week, when 2,700 new cases per day were reported.

Daily virus-related hospital admissions jumped by 9% over that week, and daily death reports rose from eight per day to 12.