COVID-19 hospitalization rates inch down, but health officials worry another surge is coming

COVID-19 hospitalization rates in the Long Beach area dropped slightly for the first time since December, but health officials on Wednesday warned that the region could still see serious cases and death stemming from infections over the holiday season.

Long Beach on Wednesday reported 569 hospitalizations in the city’s five area hospitals, down from 581 on Tuesday. The city reported 15 new deaths for a total of 499, and 546 new cases, for a total of 41,625.

Hospitalizations countywide have leveled off to just under 8,000 over the past few days, but health officials on Wednesday feared that another surge could come as a more contagious United Kingdom variant of the virus may hit the region by March.

While the variant does not make people sicker, Los Angeles County Health Director Barbara Ferrer noted that the higher transmission rate would further overburden the local health system.

“The work ahead requires us to take every action necessary to prevent transmission,” Ferrer said. “This is a battle for saving lives that goes on 24-7 at our hospitals. Our healthcare workers are exhausted.”

Officials noted that the December surge is a “different reality” from July surge and the region could still see hospitalizations from infections over the holiday season.

At the county level, 281 new deaths were reported Wednesday for a total of 12,955 since the onset of the pandemic. In the last seven days, about 1,500 people have died in LA County, while the seven-day average of daily deaths has increased 1,133% since early November.

Health officials also reported 14,564 new cases for a total of 958,497. The positivity rate has seemingly stabilized at 18%, which health officials described as still “very high.”

The death rate among Latinx residents has increased more than 800% since November, far outpacing other groups.

Additionally, the most underserved communities countywide are experiencing three times more deaths than affluent areas, officials said.

“We’re in the middle of the worst health crisis that our county and our country have seen in decades,” Ferrer said. “In less than three weeks, we lost the same number of people we lost in our tragic 911 attack. These are just not normal times, so we cannot continue to act and go out like nothing is going on.”

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Kelly Puente is a general assignment and special projects reporter at the Long Beach Post. Her prolific reporting has taken her all over Southern California—even to the small Catalina Island town of Two Harbors. She is a Tiki mug collector and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in public policy and administration at Cal State Long Beach. Reach her at [email protected].