LA County posts 3,318 new COVID-19 infections, 11 deaths; vaccine access expanded on Sunday

LA County posts 3,318 new COVID-19 infections, 11 deaths; vaccine access expanded on Sunday

With the relentless Delta variant widening its reach in the region, Los Angeles County reported 3,318 new cases of COVID-19 and 11 additional deaths on Saturday, July 31.

The number of coronavirus patients in county hospitals continued to spike as well, rising from 1,008 on Friday to 1,071, according to state figures. The number of those patients in intensive care dropped by one to 231.

The county has been experiencing sharp increases in daily case numbers, hospitalizations and test-positivity rates over the past several weeks, with the increases attributed to the unpredictable, highly infectious Delta strain. Officials continue to push vaccines as their key weapon to battle the burgeoning virus.

Starting this weekend, all five county-run vaccination sites will be open on Sundays. The hours of operation:

— 11 a.m.-6 p.m. at the Norwalk, Commerce and Ted Watkins centers; and

— 8 a.m. -3 p.m. at the Balboa and Obregon facilities.

More information on vaccine access is available at the county’s vaccination website.

Public Health teams continue to offer vaccines at 772 sites around the county, including pharmacies, clinics, community sites and hospitals. Also, mobile teams will offer shots at 322 sites this week, officials said Saturday.

“Over the past eight months, millions of people in the U.S., and around the world, have been safely vaccinated. The data overwhelmingly shows the vaccines to be effective at preventing serious illness that causes hospitalization, and death,” Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said.  “To really beat back transmission, however, we need to have higher levels of vaccination, particularly among our younger residents.”

L.A. County isn’t alone in battling the Delta variant’s grip — communities scattered around the U.S. are  coping with spiraling infections.

Florida reported 21,683 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday, the state’s highest one-day total since the start of the pandemic, according to federal health data,  as theme park resorts again started asking visitors to wear masks indoors.

The state has become the new national epicenter for the virus, accounting for around a fifth of all new cases in the U.S.

It was a dispiriting week for the nation’s efforts to stamp out the coronavirus, capped by news that scientists who studied a big COVID-19 outbreak in Massachusetts concluded that vaccinated people who got so-called breakthrough infections carried about the same amount of the coronavirus as those who did not get the shots.

Health officials on Friday released details of that research, which was key in this week’s decision by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to recommend that vaccinated people return to wearing masks indoors in parts of the U.S. where the delta variant is fueling infection surges. The authors said the findings suggest that the CDC’s mask guidance should be expanded to include the entire country, even outside of hot spots.

The findings have the potential to upend past thinking about how the disease is spread. Previously, vaccinated people who got infected were thought to have low levels of virus and to be unlikely to pass it to others. But the new data shows that is not the case with the delta variant.

Locally, Saturday’s new figures in L.A. County arrived one day after officials reported 3,606 new cases of COVID-19, the largest single-day report since early February. Saturday’s numbers bring the county’s overall total from throughout the pandemic to 1,300,313 cases and 24,682 fatalities, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

The test positivity rate was 6.1% on Saturday, down from 6.3% on Friday but still higher than the 5.17% rate reported Thursday, Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said.

Ferrer said Thursday the rise seen in recent weeks in the positivity rate and new case numbers was showing signs of slowing, offering some hope the surge may be leveling off. She said hospitalizations are expected to continue rising, since that number traditionally increases following rises in overall case numbers.

As expected with the surge in COVID cases among the general public, the county’s homeless population has also seen a sharp increase in infections in recent weeks. For the week that ended Sunday, 111 new cases were confirmed among the homeless, up 21% from the previous week.

Throughout the pandemic, 7,588 COVID cases have been reported among the homeless, and 216 have died.

County figures show that as of July 27, among 4.9 million fully vaccinated residents, 10,656 tested positive for the virus, for a rate of 0.22%. That rate marks a 63% increase from a week ago, but still remains statistically low.

Among the vaccinated people, only 410 were hospitalized, for a rate of 0.008%, and only 35 died, a rate of 0.0007%.

From Jan. 1 through June 30 of this year, 99.8% of the people who died from COVID-19 were unvaccinated or only partially vaccinated, Ferrer said.

While the pace of vaccinations has slowed significantly, Ferrer said the county has now seen two consecutive weeks of small increases in the number of people receiving a first dose. Between July 19 and 25, about 70,000 doses were administered in the county, up about 7,500 from the previous week.

Vaccination rates remain low among younger residents, particularly in the Black community. As of July 25, only 30% of Black residents age 16-17 and 18-29 had received at least one shot, roughly half of the rate of their white counterparts. Only 24% of Black residents aged 12-15 had at least one dose, also half the rate for white residents.

Overall, Black residents had the lowest overall rate of vaccination, at 46%, compared to 55% for Latinos, 66% for white residents and 77% for Asians.

Of the county’s 10.3 million overall residents, 60% have received at least one dose, and 52% are fully vaccinated. Roughly 1.3 million residents under age 12 remain ineligible for the vaccine.

In response to recent statistics. the presiding judge of the county’s court system announced an extension of deadlines in criminal trials and hearings to determine if there is enough evidence to require a defendant to stand trial.

In a statement issued Friday, Presiding Judge Eric C. Taylor said, “As a county, we have been in this place before where infections are increasing rapidly and we need to join together to stop the spread during a surge in community transmission. During this fragile time in the pandemic, it is imperative to remind everyone that face masks, worn over the nose and mouth, are required in all Los Angeles County courthouses.”

The presiding judge noted that the court is strongly urging attorneys to appear remotely for hearings, and that the public is strongly encouraged to schedule appointments for services from the Clerk’s Office and access online and courthouse call center options for self-help and other needs.

Effective next Monday, the court system has hired additional sheriff’s deputies on a temporary basis to enforce the order involving masks that must be worn properly in all public areas of the courthouses, including courtrooms, hallways and restrooms, according to the court.

Meanwhile, the new extensions allow for:

— The time within which a criminal trial must be held to be extended by up to 30 days in cases in which the statutory deadline would otherwise fall between July 17 and Aug. 13;

— The time for a preliminary hearing following arraignment to be extended from 10 court days to no more than 30 court days until Aug. 13;

— Pretrial hearings in misdemeanor cases set between July 17 and Aug. 13 for out-of-custody defendants to be extended by 90 calendar days unless statutorily required to be held sooner and the defendant does not consent to a continuance.

The Associated Press and City News Service contributed to this report

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