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Health Officials Describe Winter COVID Surge At 'Near Crisis Level'

IRVINE (CBSLA) — Southern California experienced yet another weekend in the winter COVID-19 surge driven by the Omicron variant.

In LA County this week, on average, the health department reported more than 40,000 new infections each day, with 1,000 more people hospitalized over the course of the last seven days.

"One person who gets Omicron right now is easily infecting two and the rate of that speed is so fast. The individual is very contagious two days before the onset of symptoms," said Dr. Jose Mayorga, the executive director of the UCI Health Family Health Center.

Dr. Mayorga says an increase in testing is resulting in a rise of positive cases at his centers.

"The drive-thru testing sites, we're at about 63 percent positivity of the people who are coming to get tested," he said.

Elsewhere, in Ventura County, a record number of infections were reported with a positivity rate nearing 25 percent.

In O.C., Dr. Mayorga says his staffing levels and his staff are stretched to the limit.

"It is taking a toll given that by now, we're almost two years into this pandemic," he said. "Our staff, we're short because either they themselves are out because of the illness, or they have loved ones that they care for."

With breakthrough infections included in the rise of cases, Dr. Mayorga says there is no way to tell how a person will react to COVID.

"You don't know how this virus is going to impact you or those that you spread it to at home," he said. "Let's not forget: even if you recover from the acute infection, you can suffer what's known as long COVID."

From clinics to testing sites all across Southern California, the latest surge is still causing deadly infections stretching resources thin, and still, rapidly spreading.

Health officials are reminding the public to upgrade their masks to an N95 or surgical mask with better protection. They are also reminding the public to avoid unnecessary gatherings.

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