LA County sees big drop in COVID hospitalizations

The number of COVID-positive patients in Los Angeles County hospitals dropped by more than 200 people -- falling from 3,233 to 3,012 -- continuing the downward trend of the last couple weeks, according to the latest figures out Saturday.

Of those patients, 616 were in intensive care, down from 652 on Friday.

Some patients entered hospitals for other reasons and only discovered they had COVID after a hospital-mandated test.

The latest numbers come one day after local health officials reported another 85 deaths associated with the coronavirus and 15,427 new positive COVID- 19 tests, bringing the county's totals to 2,710,362 cases and 29,280 deaths since the pandemic began.

Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Friday that if the county wants to end the winter surge of COVID infections, "we'll need to continue the common-sense protective measures that we know can slow COVID-19 transmission.

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"These include wearing a mask when around others until transmission is lower; testing, if possible, before gathering with others, especially if you're gathering with people at high risk, including unvaccinated, or indoors or in a crowded outdoor place where masks are not always worn, and after being exposed to a positive case; staying home and away from others if you are sick or test positive; and getting vaccinated and boosted if you're not already up to date," she said.

Her comments came at the end of a week that saw questions raised about the effectiveness of the county's mask-wearing mandate, prompted by photos of football fans at SoFi Stadium largely ignoring the requirement.

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Barger calls for an end to LA County's mandatory masking in schools, other indoor settings

County Supervisor Kathryn Barger said the lax adherence to the mandate should lead to a reevaluation of whether it should remain in effect. But Board of Supervisors Chair Holly Mitchell said the rule will stay in place until transmission rates fall to a safer level.

Ferrer on Thursday unveiled metrics for a possible relaxing of masking orders, saying the mandate will be dropped at outdoor "mega-events" and outdoors at schools and child-care centers if COVID-positive hospitalizations in the county fall below 2,500 for seven consecutive days.

The rolling average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus continued to fall, reaching 6.9% as of Friday, down from 7.9% on Thursday, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

As of Thursday, Ferrer said 82% of eligible county residents aged 5 and older have received at least one dose of vaccine, while 73% are fully vaccinated and 34% are vaccinated and boosted. Among all 10.3 million residents, 77% have at least one dose, 69% are fully vaccinated and 32% are vaccinated with a booster shot.

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Figures showed that children between 5 and 11 still have the lowest vaccine rates, with just 32% having received one dose and 23% fully vaccinated.

Ferrer noted that during the month of January, children aged 5 to 11 represented 15% of all COVID cases in the county, despite making up just 9% of the population. Teens aged 12 to 17 accounted for 13% of all cases, while representing just 7% of the population.

"Children do get infected with COVID-19," she said.

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