LA County sees 15k new COVID cases over July 4 weekend; Ventura Co. enters high transmission

Los Angeles County health officials Monday reported 15,413 new cases of COVID-19 and 18 additional deaths linked to the virus over the three-day Fourth of July weekend.

The county Department of Public Health reported 5,865 cases for Saturday, 6,020 cases for Sunday and 3,528 cases for Monday. Ten of the fatalities were reported for Saturday, five for Sunday and three for Monday.

(Getty Images)

The latest figures bring the county's cumulative totals to 3,140,615 cases and 32,361 deaths since the pandemic began. A majority of the deaths occurred in people with at least one underlying health condition, mainly hypertension, diabetes and heart disease.

Amid the rising transmission and elevated hospitalization numbers, Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer had urged caution against the spread of COVID-19 during celebrations where many people are likely to gather.

Ferrer on Thursday noted an uptick in infections related to workplaces, and urged employers to implement infection-control measures in indoor spaces, such as masking and maintaining physical distancing in communal areas. She said one sector in particular — the TV and film industry — has already re-imposed an indoor mask mandate now that the county's hospitalization rate has reached more than 8 per 100,000 residents.

She said that given the continued high level of virus transmission in the county — particularly with more rapid spread of the highly transmissible BA.4 and BA.5 variants — people should already be masking up indoors.

Because masks are not mandatory, "people are not, I think, heeding our request that people do put those masks back on indoors right now."

She said the evidence is "crystal clear" that masking, particularly with a higher-grade N95 or KN95 mask, works to prevent spread of the virus.

Dr. Thomas Yadegar, Director of the Intensive Care Unit at Providence Cedars-Sinai Tarzana Medical Center, says the sub-variants of omicron are more contagious.  

"What we noticed with omicron specifically is that the vaccines lost a lot of their effectiveness in terms of preventing infections and especially with other sub-variants, the spike protein has changed, so the previous vaccine is no longer as effective," said Yadegar.

Dr. Yadegar said it is important to have the booster shot along with the vaccine for any sort of protection against the new variant.  

"There was a recent study that came out that showed that if you had the two shots, but did not get the booster, you're essentially defenseless against omicron," he said.

Dr. Yadegar said the virus has become weaker in some ways though and could continue to weaken as more variants emerge.

"I think we need to keep our guards up. Over the past two and half years, this virus has constantly been two steps ahead of us and we need to still be vigilant and protect others in the community," said Yadegar.

LA County is in the medium transmission category, but could soon move into the high transmission category as defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, prompting a return to the indoor mask mandate.

Ventura County is the first county in Southern California to pass the threshold into the high transmission category, but will not enact the indoor mask mandate.

"Masking is and always has been highly recommended in Ventura County indoors and in public spaces and outdoors in crowded environments," said Ventura County Health Officer Dr. Robert Levin. "We can't force all of our people to mask any more than we can force them to vaccinate or take Paxlovid if they become COVID positive. I think our stance on masking is appropriate to the COVID we have."

The LA County Department of Public Health notified the City of Malibu to reinstate the indoor mask mandate at City Hall due to a recent surge in COVID-19 cases in the County and among City Hall staff.