LOS ANGELES (CNS) — Perhaps offering hope that the omicron-fueled surge in COVID-19 infections is waning, Los Angeles County reported slight drops in some key pandemic-tracking metrics Thursday, but the rate of virus spread is still at an all-time high — and another 102 deaths were reported.
The 102 deaths is the highest daily number reported by the county since last March.
County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer noted that the number of new COVID-related deaths has doubled in the past week. She also said 90% of the deaths reported Thursday involved people who fell ill from COVID after Dec. 24, "indicating the high likelihood of infection with the omicron variant."
Health officials have said about 90% of the COVID deaths during the pandemic occurred in people who had underlying health conditions. The most common conditions are hypertension, diabetes and heart disease. It was unclear how many of the deaths reported Thursday involved people with such conditions.
The fatalities lifted the county's virus-related death toll to 28,282.
COVID infections have been surging for weeks in the county, thanks largely to the highly transmissible omicron variant. But Ferrer said there are signs the surge may be easing.
"While case numbers and test positivity are extraordinarily high, there are small decreases from last week," Ferrer said during a media videoconference. "The average daily new case rate is now at about 33,000 cases a day. Test positivity decreased slightly this past week to approximately 17%, meaning that nearly one in six people getting tested is infected with COVID. The seven-day average daily case rate also dropped a bit to about 350 new cases per 100,000 residents.
"While these small decreases may indicate that we're no longer seeing exponential growth in transmission, we're still experiencing the highest rate of spread for this entire pandemic," Ferrer said. "And with so many cases, our hospital numbers remain elevated, with 4,814 people currently hospitalized. This is the highest number of daily hospitalizations for COVID since last winter's surge."
Ferrer said the increased number of COVID patients is causing strain at hospitals, even though roughly half of them were admitted for reasons other than the virus and only discovered they were infected when they were admitted.
"Regardless of their reason for hospitalization, all COVID-positive patients require resource-intensive precautions that place additional strain our health-care system, particularly in the setting of the current staff shortages," she said.
The 4,814 COVID-positive patients in county hospitals was up from 4,799 on Wednesday. Of those patients, 723 were being treated in intensive care units, up from 700 a day earlier.
The county on Thursday also reported another 42,115 new infections. The rolling average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus was 17.5% as of Thursday.
According to the county, 81% of eligible county residents aged 5 and above have received at least one dose of vaccine, and 72% are fully vaccinated. Only 31% are fully vaccinated with a booster shot. Of the county's overall 10.3 million population, 76% have received one dose, 68% are fully vaccinated, and 29% are vaccinated and boosted.