With children back in school and many employees back at work after vacations, Los Angeles County health officials are urging people to get tested for COVID-19 before returning to workplaces or college campuses, and to wear a mask for 10 days to help prevent the virus from spreading.
County health officials have indicated the emergence of a new virus strain known as XBB.1.5, which is believed to be responsible for 40% of new cases nationwide and 9% in California. Officials said the upward trend is expected to soon reverse among L.A. County cases.
“With XBB. 1.5 rising across the country, I want you to realize that very soon we could see the new strain become more dominant here in Los Angeles County,” Director of Public Health Barbara Ferrer said in a statement. “I wish everyone would take action to help lessen the impact, especially knowing it will be felt the most by those at risk of critical illness. Every day I see examples of how people in L.A. County are caring for others and this is another way of doing it. We have learned a lot over the past few years and it is important that we all use the knowledge to help protect our community.”
Health officials noted that people should especially take precautions after holiday gatherings that may have led to transmission of the virus, and that could worsen when residents return to crowded workplaces or schools.
According to the county’s public health department, “It may take up to 10 days for a person with COVID-19 to test positive or show symptoms of infection.” To reduce the spread of infection after the holidays, county residents should get tested before returning to school or work and upon return, wear a suitable, high-filtration mask indoors for at least 10 days, in addition to continuing to wear a mask in indoor public spaces.
Wearing a mask during the 10-day incubation period for COVID-19 can slow transmission of the virus, reduce disruptions to work and learning, protect the most vulnerable, and help ensure hospitals are not overcrowded.
The Los Angeles Unified School District, which will resume classes Monday, circulated a letter to families this week, recommending that all students and staff undergo a COVID-19 test before returning to campus.
“We also encourage testing the week of January 16th.” according to the region. “Rapid antigen tests have been provided to schools and offices. Please contact your principal or superintendent if you need a test. Thank you for doing your part to keep everyone safe.”
COVID infection rates have decreased in the county in recent weeks, but health officials noted that a “significant number” of new cases, hospitalizations and deaths are still being reported regularly.
The seven-day average daily number of cases was 2,111 as of Friday, down about 11% from the previous week. The average daily number of coronavirus patients in provincial hospitals was 1,247 as of Friday, up from 1,207 the previous week. The county also reported an average of 20 virus-related deaths per day, up from 16 the previous week.
On Friday, the county reported 2,101 more infections, bringing the cumulative total from across the pandemic to 3,646,917. The number of new cases being reported each day is an undercount for actual virus activity because many residents rely on at-home tests without reporting results. , while others are not tested at all.
Another 24 COVID-related deaths were announced Friday, giving the county a total death toll of 34,807.
According to state numbers, there were 1,212 patients with COVID in county hospitals as of Friday, down sharply from 1,287 on Thursday. Of those, 139 patients were treated in intensive care units, up slightly from 133 the day before.
The seven-day average daily rate for people who tested positive for the virus was 12.8% as of Thursday, down from the revised rate of 13.2% on Wednesday and below the 14.9% rate it was a week ago.
Los Angeles County remains in the federal government’s “medium” transmission range. Masks are still required indoors in healthcare facilities and congregate care, for anyone exposed to the virus in the past 10 days, and in businesses that require the owner. Other than that, it is only highly recommended for indoor settings.