LA health officials urge testing, contact tracing amid COVID delta surge

Echoing pleas from the early days of the pandemic, Los Angeles County health officials urged residents Friday to get tested for COVID-19 if they develop any symptoms or believe they were exposed to the virus, and cooperate with contract-tracers if they call.

The county on Friday also confirmed another 31 fatalities due to COVID, including one person between the ages of 12 and 17. The death -- a patient with underlying health conditions -- brought to seven the number of children under age 18 who have died of COVID-19 during the pandemic. Two of them were under age 12 and five were between 12 and 17.

The 31 new fatalities increased the pandemic's death toll in the county to 25,032.

Another 3,361 cases of COVID-19 were also confirmed by county health officials on Friday, raising the cumulative total from throughout the pandemic to 1,376,551. The rolling daily rate of people testing positive for the virus was 3.6% as of Friday.

The number of COVID-positive patients in county hospitals dipped slightly for the second day in a row, falling to 1,775 from the Thursday total of 1,786, according to state figures. There were 427 people in intensive care, up from 414 on Thursday.

The latest county figures show that 73% of county residents age 12 and over have received at least one dose of vaccine. Among the overall 10.3 million residents in the county -- including those too young to be eligible for the shots -- 63% have received at least one dose and 55% are fully vaccinated.

"Everyone who is not yet vaccinated needs to know they do not have the same protection as vaccinated people," county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement. "While the highest hospitalization rate is among older unvaccinated adults over 50, hospitalizations in younger unvaccinated adults between the ages of 18 and 49 have increased 226% since July 7. Relative to unvaccinated adults, hospitalization rates among vaccinated adults of all ages remain very low. The data continues to show how well protected vaccinated people are from bad outcomes. Our top priority is vaccinating those not yet vaccinated."

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Ferrer said she expects daily new case numbers to remain high in the coming weeks due to increased testing being required at many schools and businesses.

The county Department of Public Health on Friday reminded residents about the need to get tested if they develop symptoms or were exposed to the virus -- even if they are fully vaccinated. Those people should also isolate from others while awaiting test results, according to the county.

The county also urged people to cooperate with contact-tracers, who reach out to those who test positive or have been exposed. The contact-tracing process is considered crucial to identifying people who may have been exposed to the virus without their knowledge, and to containing potential outbreaks. Contact tracers can also provide information about isolation and quarantine and how to access services and providers.

Calls from contact tracers will display on phones as "LA Public Health" or 833-641-0305.

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People who have tested positive for COVID-19 but have not received a call from contact tracers were urged to call 833-540-0473.

While continuing to profess the effectiveness of vaccines, Ferrer noted Thursday that the percentages of fully vaccinated people being infected and hospitalized have been rising over the past three months.

She said that in April, vaccinated people represented only 5% of the overall number of cases in the county. In July, that number increased to 30%. Vaccinated people represented only 5% of hospitalized patients in April, but 13% in July.

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Overall, however, the percentages of vaccinated people who test positive, are hospitalized or die from COVID remain low -- all less than 1%. Of the nearly 5.15 million fully vaccinated residents as of Tuesday, 27,331 have tested positive, for a rate of 0.53%. Only 742 were hospitalized, for a rate of 0.014%, and 68 have died, a rate of 0.0013%.

"With these high rates of community transmission, more fully vaccinated people are getting post-vaccination infection. However, this very same information also makes it clear how much protection fully vaccinated people have," Ferrer said.

"Most of us that are fully vaccinated, we don't get infected. And if we do get infected, we don't end up hospitalized and they are very unlikely to tragically lose their life to COVID if fully vaccinated."

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