LOS ANGELES (CNS) — The number of COVID-positive patients in Los Angeles County hospitals has dropped below 4,000, according the latest state figures released Saturday — continuing a downward trend since the total exceeded 4,800 a week ago.

There were 3,998 COVID-positive patients in county hospitals, with 745 in intensive care, down from 766 on Friday.

What You Need To Know

  • On Saturday, the county reported another 73 deaths associated with COVID-19

  • Another 21,709 new positive COVID tests were also logged Saturday

  • There were 3,998 COVID-positive patients in county hospitals, with 745 in intensive care

  • The vaccination rate among children ages 5-11 remains low, with only 31% having received at least one dose

Officials have said that some of these patients likely entered the hospital for other reasons and only discovered they had the coronavirus after a mandated test.

Also Saturday, the county reported another 73 deaths associated with COVID-19, as the winter surge in infections that drove up hospital rates continues to produce high fatality rates. The county reported 101 COVID-related deaths Friday, one of the highest daily numbers of the past year.

Another 21,709 new positive COVID tests were also logged Saturday, according the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. The county’s rolling average rate of people testing positive for the virus continued to fall, reaching 9.8% — down from 11.6% Friday, and 12.7% Thursday.

Because transmission remains very high, residents were encouraged to follow common sense safety precautions at upcoming gatherings, including watching or attending Sunday’s NFC championship game and Lunar New Year celebrations next week.

Residents should not host or go to gatherings if they are sick. Hosting activities outdoors is always safer, especially while eating and drinking. In crowded indoor settings, people are urged to wear a well-fitting, high-quality mask.

“With multiple opportunities for gathering and celebrating in the coming days, including cheering on the LA Rams, following sensible safety measures will allow us to continue our recent decline,” county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Saturday.

“For residents who are at high-risk, including those older, immunocompromised, or with underlying health conditions, gatherings can be especially risky given the still high rates of transmission. If you are going to gather, layering on as many protections as possible will provide good defense from possible exposure to the virus. This includes getting tested before the gathering, moving activities outdoors where possible, and keeping that mask on when indoors or in crowded places. And go Rams!”

All those attending Sunday’s game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood must be fully vaccinated or provide proof of a negative test. If attendees are providing a negative test result, it must be either a PCR test taken within two days of the event or an antigen test taken within one day of the event. Attendees are also required to wear masks, regardless of vaccination status, at the event, except while actively eating and drinking.

Health officials have continued to preach caution despite the lowering COVID trends, warning that as long as the virus continues to spread, new and more easily transmitted variants of the virus can arise, much like the recent delta and omicron variants.

Ferrer confirmed Thursday that the county has already identified four cases of a sub-variant of omicron, known as BA.2, which has spread rapidly in some countries, most notably Denmark. She said it’s still too early to know exactly how much of a threat the strain presents.

“We don’t yet know how BA.2 might be different than other omicron lineages, and scientists will be working rapidly in the coming weeks to learn more about immune evasion, severity and transmissibility,” she said Thursday. “In places that have already passed their peak of omicron cases, it does appear that BA.2 is causing a new surge. In places at their peak of the omicron surge that have significant BA.2 prevalence, it doesn’t appear that BA.2 is behaving dramatically different than other omicron lineages. And compared with other omicron lineages, BA.2 does not really have many unique mutations that would be impacting the part of the virus that’s targeted by our immune system.”

According to the county, 81% of eligible county residents ages 5 and above have received at least one dose of vaccine, and 72% are fully vaccinated. Only 32% are fully vaccinated with a booster shot. Of the county’s overall 10.3 million population, 77% have received one dose, 69% are fully vaccinated, and 31% are vaccinated and boosted.

The vaccination rate among children ages 5-11 remains low, with only 31% having received at least one dose, and only 21% fully vaccinated. Ferrer said the low vaccination rate among children “creates significant vulnerability for spread” of the virus.

Of the over 6.5 million fully vaccinated residents in the county, 580,942 have subsequently gotten infected with COVID, for a rate of 8.9%. That’s a higher rate than December, when it was 2%, an increase Ferrer attributed to the highly transmissible omicron variant. But the number of fully vaccinated residents who have been hospitalized was 6,998 as of this month, for a rate of 0.1%. The number who have died is 886, for a rate of 0.01%.