First published in the Dec. 29 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health is asking residents to layer protections this holiday season to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmissions, especially for older people, and to limit additional stress on health care providers and hospitals.
According to the most recent data published on the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health dashboard last Friday, L.A. County reported that the case rate is now 177 new cases per 100,000 people, which puts the county into a “medium community level” based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention designation.
Death rates are continuing to climb, especially among older people. Since the onset of the pandemic in 2020, the total number of COVID-19 deaths through Dec. 23 in Los Angeles County is 34,561.
While case numbers have decreased slightly, Public Health officials are concerned that traveling and gathering during the holidays will result in increased transmission and severe illness, which would place greater stress on the
county’s hospitals and health care system.
With nearly 200 cases per 100,000 people, transmission levels are still high. To help protect older people and people who are immuno-compromised or have underlying health conditions in the community, Los Angeles County residents should continue to mask when indoors and follow other health measures. Having plenty of well-fitting, high-filtration masks on hand, preferably N95s, KN95s, or KF94s, will help limit transmission.
Vaccines remain the best protection against severe COVID-19 illness. Everyone eligible — which now includes children 6 months or older — should get the new bivalent vaccine. For more information, call the Department of Public Health Vaccine Call Center at (833) 540-0473. The call center is open daily 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. To find a vaccine site, visit ph.lacounty.gov/howtogetvaccinated or contact your health care provider.
In addition to wearing masks when indoors and getting the updated booster, there is still time to get the seasonal flu vaccine, since flu season generally lasts into the spring. When choosing activities or planning an event, it also makes sense to look for outdoor options. If it doesn’t work to be outside, open windows and doors to increase ventilation inside.
Testing for COVID before gatherings to reduce transmission remains especially important because people can transmit the COVID-19 virus without having symptoms. Go to ph.lacounty.gov/COVIDtests for more information about testing. Order free COVID tests from the federal government at COVIDtests.gov.
Finally, it’s important for people to stay home when they are sick. Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 and has symptoms, including fever, coughing, sneezing, unusual fatigue or muscle aches, is advised to speak to their health care provider about options for oral anti-viral medication. For COVID-19, antivirals should be started within five days of symptom onset. Anyone who does not have a provider may call the Public Health Call Center at (833) 540-0473 to access free telehealth services.
“I offer my condolences to those who have lost someone to COVID-19 during these past few years. This is an especially difficult time of year to be without a loved one and I would like to extend my deepest sympathies,” said Barbara Ferrer, director of Public Health. “Given that … holiday gatherings and travel could lead to increased transmission, we continue to urge residents to layer in protections over the next few weeks. I have been seeing a lot more people masking indoors and more people are getting vaccinated with the bivalent booster.”
Last Thursday (Dec. 23), Public Health reported 3,006 new positive cases, with 22 deaths reported that day. There were 1,201 people with COVID-19 hospitalized. Testing
results were available for more than 12,805,439 individuals, with 25% of people testing positive.