With infections still surging, Los Angeles County’s cumulative number of Covid cases throughout the pandemic surpassed the 2 million mark today, with 43,582 new cases confirmed. Those new cases lifted the county’s cumulative case total to 2,010,964 since the pandemic began. Daily cases in the county set an all-time high on Sunday at 45,584.
Another 13 deaths were also confirmed, giving the county an overall death toll of 27,798.
The number of Covid-positive patients in county hospitals also continued an unnerving rise, reaching 3,472, according to state figures. That was up from 3,364 on Sunday. The number of hospitalized patients being treated in intensive care has also begun to rise, going from 435 on Sunday to 482 on Monday.
The number of hospitalized Covid-positive patients has not been this high since February of last year, during a severe winter surge that at one point pushed the patient number above 8,000. A state ensemble forecast released today showed the number of Covid-related hospitalizations in California peaking late this month at 30,000. That’s more than 30% higher than the previous record set last winter.
“With surging transmission and rapidly rising cases and hospitalizations, our already understaffed health care providers are under enormous strain as they try to care for so many COVID infected people, including those with mild illness who are looking for help and support, with the unintended consequence of compromising response capacity across the entire system,” county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement.
“Because high community transmission has the inevitable impact of increasing demand for health care services, the best way to protect health care personnel and our capacity to care for both those with Covid and non-Covid illness, is to double-down on reducing transmission.”
The county Department of Public Health noted, however, that a majority of COVID hospitalizations are occurring among people who were originally admitted for another reason, and only realized they had the virus when they were tested upon admission.
For the week ending Dec. 26, 55% of Covid-positive hospital patients had been admitted for a different reason — indicating that while they were infected with Covid, they were not experiencing severe virus symptoms.
County health officials stressed, however, that unvaccinated people remain 21 times more likely to wind up hospitalized with COVID than vaccinated people.
The current surge in cases in being driven by the highly transmissible Omicron variant of the virus.
“While it is true that Omicron is much more infectious than previous Covid strains, there are many effective strategies available for reducing transmission risks over the next few weeks,” Ferrer said. “Gatherings should also be postponed for a few weeks, especially if there are participants who are not fully vaccinated, and everyone cannot test before getting together. Lastly, upgrading masks to those that provide a better barrier against virus particles is a commonsense step that increases our own protection along with those around us.”
The county’s rolling average rate of people testing positive for the virus was 21.4% as of Monday, up from 20.6% Sunday and 20.9% Saturday after a week of trending downward. The rate was less than 1% in November.
The testing-positivity rate, however, may be artificially low due to the number of people who use take-home tests and don’t report the results, according to officials.
Overall, 67% of eligible county residents are fully vaccinated.
City News Service contributed to this report.