Los Angeles County reported another 40,000-plus cases of COVID-19 on Friday as the easily transmitted Omicron variant of the virus continued to make its impact felt, particularly in hospitals, where patient numbers continue to rise.
According to state figures, there were 4,257 COVID-positive people in county hospitals as of Friday, up from 4,175 on Thursday.
A total of 600 of those patients were being treated in intensive care, up from 586 a day earlier. County Department of Public Health officials said the 600 patients represents nearly 25% of all ICU patients in the county, topping the rate seen during the recent COVID infection surge caused by the previous delta variant.
During that summer surge, COVID patients only represented 20% of overall ICU patients. As of Friday, more than 80% of all adult ICU beds in the county were occupied, according to the county.
Overall COVID patient numbers are still well below those seen last winter, when the number topped 8,000, but hospitals are still becoming strained due to severe staffing another other issues that limit the capacity of medical centers to expand their patient space the way they did a year ago.
Long Beach on Thursday reported 1,939 new cases and five additional deaths, while hospitalizations increased from 325 to 332 people with COVID in the five hospitals that serve Long Beach. Just under 30% of people are now testing positive for the virus.
Health officials again urged residents to avoid going to emergency rooms unless absolutely necessary, and not go to the ER to get tested for COVID.
“As Omicron surges across L.A. County, there are mounting challenges and frustrations affecting so many,” county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement. “The enormous strain experienced by our healthcare personnel can be alleviated by reducing the transmission of the virus so that less people are seeking medical care.”
The county reported 48 additional COVID-19 deaths on Friday, raising the overall death toll from the virus to 27,942 since the pandemic began.
The 40,535 new infections announced Friday lifted the county’s overall case total from throughout the pandemic to 2,172,008.
The rolling average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus was 19% as of Friday.
Ferrer said Thursday the rise in COVID patients is pushing the county’s overall hospital patient population to levels rivaling those during last winter’s case surge. She said the daily overall patient census—both COVID and non-COVID—was about 15,000 in the county, close to last winter’s peak of 16,500.
She also noted that rising hospitalizations are a natural consequence of rising case numbers, as are deaths, which are likely to keep increasing, even after infection figures begin declining.
Ferrer again urged residents to avoid dangerous activities in the coming weeks, particularly those that are indoors and involve mingling with unvaccinated or higher-risk people.
She also stressed that while the omicron variant is easily capable of infecting vaccinated people, the shots are still proving to be effective in preventing infected people from winding up hospitalized.
She called on residents to get vaccinated and obtain booster shots; wear upgraded masks such as N95, KN95 or KF94 varieties; and get tested, saying the county dramatically expanded testing availability after shortages two weeks ago that led to long lines at some test centers.
Staff writer Kelly Puente contributed to this report.
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