LA County reaches high level of COVID-19 community

Los Angeles County has once again entered the high level of the COVID-19 community, further indication that the continuing surge in cases is beginning to put pressure on area hospitals.

If hospitalization rates continue to rise this month, the county could be on track for a new order of universal masks in indoor public places. But it’s unclear when such a rule could be handed down — or if it will materialize at all.

LA County has already met one of two criteria that would trigger a new mandate: a relatively high rate of new coronavirus-positive hospitalizations. The county now reports 14.8 new positive coronavirus hospitalizations per week per 100,000 population; a score of 10 or more is considered particularly worrisome.

The second focuses on the share of staffed hospital beds occupied by coronavirus-positive patients. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 6.9% of staffed hospital beds in LA County are being used by patients infected with coronavirus, up from 2% in early November. However, that figure would have to be 10% or higher for a mask mandate to be on the table.

Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer estimated that LA County could reach the second benchmark around December 19, assuming current trends continue. If LA County was still above that threshold on December 22 — and remained so for two weeks — a mask mandate would be announced on January 5 and take effect a day later.

LA County hasn’t been at community high levels of COVID-19 since the summer, when it last appeared a mask mandate could be imminent. Placement in this category, which is defined by the CDC, requires a county to have a high level of coronavirus transmission and meet a certain hospitalization threshold.

The county’s move to high COVID-19 community level on Thursday was the result of its case rate exceeding 200 cases per week per 100,000 population.

Eight California counties entered the high community level for COVID-19 on Thursday: Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Imperial, Kings, San Benito and Tuolumne. Nearly 15 million Californians live in these areas, representing 38% of the state’s population.

When a county’s community level is high, the CDC recommends residents “wear a high-quality mask or respirator” and that those “at high risk of becoming very ill consider avoiding non-essential indoor activities in public. where they could be exposed to the coronavirus.

Seventeen counties entered the medium COVID-19 community level: San Diego, Riverside, Alameda, Contra Costa, Ventura, San Joaquin, Tulare, Solano, Napa, Sutter, Yuba, Lake, Calaveras, Lassen, Del Norte, Colusa and Inyo.

They joined 18 counties already at the mid level: Orange, Sacramento, Fresno, Stanislaus, Monterey, Placer, Merced, Yolo, Butte, El Dorado, Madera, Nevada, Mendocino, Tehama, Siskiyou, Glenn, Mariposa and Sierra.

There are 20 million Californians who live in the 35 mid-tier counties, representing 51% of the state’s population.

When a county’s COVID-19 community level is medium, the CDC recommends people at high risk of getting very sick wear a mask or respirator in indoor public places.

Two counties went from medium to low COVID-19 community levels: Sonoma and Marin counties. The other 13 counties in the state that remain at the low tier are Kern, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Shasta, Humboldt, Amador, Plumas, Mono, Trinity, Modoc and Alpine.

Los Angeles Times

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