LOS ANGELES (CNS) — The number of COVID-19-positive patients in Los Angeles County hospitals was slightly below the 500 mark Tuesday, down sharply from Saturday, while another 12 virus-related deaths were reported.

According to state figures, there were 496 COVID-positive patients in county hospitals as of Tuesday, a reduction from 548 on Saturday, the most recent day for which figures were available. Of those patients, 53 were being treated in intensive care units, down from 60 on Saturday.

County officials have said about 43% of patients with COVID were actually hospitalized due to virus-related illness, while the rest were admitted for other reasons, with some only learning they were infected when they were tested upon admission.

The 12 new deaths reported Tuesday lifted the county’s overall death toll to 33,576.

Another 1,288 cases were reported Tuesday, giving the county a cumulative total from throughout the pandemic of 3,451,726. The infection numbers reported by the county are believed to be an undercount of actual cases due to the prevalence of at-home COVID tests, the results of which are generally not reported to health officials.

The seven-day average rate of people testing positive for the virus was 4.4% as of Tuesday.

Speaking to the county Board of Supervisors Tuesday, county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer again urged people to get the latest version of the COVID-19 vaccine booster shot, which is targeted toward recent Omicron variants of the virus. She noted that the county has dealt with surges of infections during the last two winters, but the availability of the vaccines and targeted boosters puts the area in a “much better place” that it was in the past.

“But we still need to be real about the fact the pandemic is not over,” Ferrer said, when asked about a recent comment to the contrary by President Joe Biden. She said the president’s quote — which has been widely repeated — could best be termed a “poor choice of words,” noting that Biden also said there is still “a lot of work to be done.”

“We can finally see the end,” she said. “We’re not there yet, so we’ve got to dig in and use what’s available.”

Ferrer noted that if the county does experience another surge in cases, virus-control measures such as masking rules could return.