STUDIO CITY (CBSLA) - Los Angeles County Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer believes that the Southland is now past the peak of the Omicron surge, but that comes with warnings of new sub-variant of Omicron recently detected in the county.
Health officials said they are still trying to determine if the new sub-variant, known as BA.2, will be any kind of significant threat.
"Very little of it seems to be circulating right now here in LA County," Dr. Ferrer said.
According to the health director, LA County has four reported cases of the Omicron sub-variant that is currently driving new outbreaks in the UK.
"We're now seeing a variant that is going to be much more contagious than Omicron and will likely take over the space occupied by the original variant," she said.
University of California, Los Angeles, Epidemiologist Dr. Anne Rimoin, however, said it's still too early to sound the alarm when it comes to predicting whether BA.2 could cause another surge.
"We have not seen data that this is a more pathogenic or more virulent variant, and so I think the key here is we need to be able to watch it, really important to monitor what is happening. If we see trends, act quickly," Rimoin said.
News of the new variant comes as LA County is reporting major progress against the Omicron surge and a drop in COVID cases.
"We have likely passed the peak of Omicron transmission in LA County," Ferrer said.
Still, hospitalizations and deaths remain high across Southern California, but doctors are especially worried about kids. On Thursday, Senator Alex Padilla held a roundtable with pediatricians across the state, including Loma Linda Children's Health in San Bernardino.
"We have 35 COVID positive inpatients in our hospital. Of that, zero have been vaccinated prior to coming in here," panelist said.
"Last week, we saw by far the highest peak during the entire pandemic of kids admitted for COVID," said another.
LA County is also just weeks away from the Super Bowl at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, as well as a major Rams playoff game this weekend.
Health officials are once again reminding people to keep gatherings small, outdoors and, if possible, practice social distancing.
"You know, if we are going to be gathering, hosting and attending viewing parties, we have to do it sensibly," Ferrer said.
While the City of LA said they will begin citing businesses that don't check vaccination status at the door, they have yet to cite a single business. Officials said they won't begin enforcement until next month.
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