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Angelenos Should Avoid 'Non-Essential Activities' Amid COVID Surge, LA County Public Health Director Says

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – With COVID-19 cases rising to unprecedented levels due the highly-contagious Omicron variant, Los Angeles County public health officials are advising the public to avoid certain non-essential gatherings, such as indoor parties with people who are unvaccinated.

A medical worker collects a swab sample at a COVID-19 drive-through testing site in Los Angeles, California, the United States, Jan. 10, 2022. Los Angeles County on Monday reported 43,582 new positive cases of COVID-19 and 13 more related deaths, raising the total caseload to over 2 million, the department of public health said. (Photo by Xinhua via Getty Images)

L.A. County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer issued the recommendation Tuesday while addressing the L.A. County Board of Supervisors.

"While we're in the surge, we do ask that you exercise more caution, even if you're vaccinated and boosted," Ferrer said. "One way to reduce transmission is to wear a high-quality mask whenever you're around non- household members...We're also asking that over the next few weeks, we all try to avoid non-essential activities where people are unmasked and in close contact with others.

"We know how important getting together with friends is to our wellbeing. We need to be sure we're able to keep each other safe. The reality is that parties and events -- especially those indoors with unvaccinated individuals or those at high risk for severe illness -- make it very easy for this virus to spread. Limiting our time with others to those more essential work-related or school-related activities is a prudent action for everyone to take whenever possible."

Despite the recommendation, last week Ferrer said there were no plans to move the Super Bowl, which is slated to take place at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Feb. 13.

"It will be challenging if the surge continues into February, but I do think we're working closely with both the NFL and SoFi Stadium to have a wonderful Super Bowl here with the appropriate safety precautions that will keep fans safe and our community safe," Ferrer said during a media videoconference on Jan. 6.

Nonetheless, the NFL has however been investigating contingency plans, including using AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

RELATED: LA Residents Scour For Free At-Home COVID Test Kits

Meanwhile, L.A. County reported 34,827 new coronavirus cases Tuesday and 15 deaths from the disease. This comes after L.A. County Sunday recorded 45,584 new cases, the highest daily count since the start of the pandemic.

On Monday, L.A. County hit 2-million confirmed coronavirus cases since the beginning of the pandemic.

The seven-day test positivity rate sits at a staggering 22%, up from just 1% in November.

According to the latest state data, the number of people hospitalized with the coronavirus in L.A. County Tuesday was 3,766, an approximately five-fold increase from just a month ago. There were nine times more unvaccinated people hospitalized with COVID-19 than those fully vaccinated with boosters, according to DPH.

As of data through late December, unvaccinated people were 22 times more likely to die of the coronavirus than vaccinated people, DPH said.

L.A. County Health Services Director Dr. Christina Ghaly told the board that, despite rising patient numbers, the Omicron-fueled surge is playing out differently in hospitals than earlier surges. She said last fall, about one-third of COVID patients wound up in ICU care, but that number is only about 10% to 15% this time around, at least in the four county-operated hospitals, which likely reflect conditions in other medical centers.

She also said that about 40% of COVID-positive patients at the county hospitals were admitted specifically because of the virus, while the rest only learned they were infected upon admission for something else. During the last surge, 80% to 90% of the COVID patients were admitted due to virus-related illness.

Ghaly said that despite the changes and numbers that still dwarf last winter's surge -- when more than 8,000 COVID patients were hospitalized -- current staffing shortages are creating more critical conditions at hospitals. She pointed to large number of healthcare workers who have retired or moved into non-front-line positions. She also noted that the surge in COVID infections has also impacted healthcare workers, leaving many unavailable to work due to illness or exposure.

As of Jan. 6, 80% of eligible county residents aged 5 and older have received at least one dose of vaccine, while 71% are fully vaccinated. Of the county's overall population of 10.3 million people, 76% have received at least one dose, and 68% are fully vaccinated.

(© Copyright 2022 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)

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