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LA County Confirms More Than 28,000 COVID Deaths; Reports Highest Number of Daily New Deaths Since April 2021

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) - As daily coronavirus cases and hospitalizations continue to grow, Los Angeles County health is seeing a grim new benchmark.

LA County reported on Saturday that an additional 66 people have died due to COVID-19, the highest daily total since April 2021. The death toll has now surpassed 28,000 over the span of the pandemic, which began in 2020. This is the third-straight day that the number of deaths has matched the levels seen in the spring surge in 2021, but first report of over 50 since then.

In addition, the county announced 41,765 new cases of COVID-19; this is also the third-straight day that the county has reported positive COVID cases of over 40,000, after Thursday's report of 45,076, and 40,535 on Friday.Saturday makes it the fifth day in the span a week that totals have eclipsed the 40,000 mark.

On top of all of this, hospitalizations have also continued to spike, as the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health reported that 4,386 patients were hospitalized due to COVID-19, up from the 4,257 on Friday and 4,175  on Thursday.

These increasing numbers can be attributed to the Omicron variant of Coronavirus. While the variant is less virulent, it is much more highly-transmissible due to the greater than 30 mutations on the spike proteins, which allows the virus to enter the human body.

Dr. Jose Mayorga, Executive Director of the University of California, Irvine Health Family Center spoke with CBS reporters on Saturday, disclosing that, "one person who gets Omicron right now, is easily infecting two. The rate of that speed is so fast, the individual is very contagious two days before the onset of symptoms."

He clarified that while higher testing numbers are a result of the rapid increase in higher positive case numbers, the wild speed of the spread is still concerning. He continued to state that nearly 63% of the people who come to get tested at one of the testing sites his clinic provides, specifically the drive-thru facility, test positive.

On Friday, Barbara Ferrer, L.A. County Public Health Director indicated that 80% of hospital beds were occupied.

She also released a statement along with the report on Saturday, where she touched on the increasing number of deaths due to COVID-19, "As deaths often lag behind surges in cases and hospitalizations, sadly, the increase in deaths does not come as a surprise and tragically, we are prepared for even higher number of deaths in the coming weeks," she said.

Ferrer also made it clear that the public has to practice continued diligence in preventing the spread of the virus, recommending an upgrade in face mask material from cloth to surgical quality, like the N95, KF94 and KN95 varieties, and to avoid public gatherings, especially in indoor settings.

She urged people to continue keeping up with vaccinations, especially those due for booster shots. "With unvaccinated individuals 22 times more likely to die from COVID-19 compared to those fully vaccinated, residents should not delay getting vaccinated and boosted as these measures are saving lives," she continued.

Regions around the Southland are also experiencing similar spikes in numbers, as Orange County reported an increase in hospitalizations, ICU patients and cases on Saturday.

Dr. Mayorga continued, noting that not only his hospital, but medical facilities across the United States, are struggling to keep up with the increased tension being forced upon the healthcare industry, especially with the short-staffing issues at hand. "It is taking a toll, given that we're now almost two years into this pandemic. We're short, because either they themselves are out because of the illness, or they have loved ones that they care for," he said.

Loved ones the exact group that people should take into consideration when it comes to taking precautions against COVID, including the fact that breakthrough cases are a large part of the current surge. "You don't know how this virus is going to impact you, or those that you spread it to at home. Let's not forget, even if you recover from the acute infection, you can suffer what's known as 'long-COVID.'"

As resources continue to stretch thin, many health officials are concerned, indicating that the county may be near "crisis levels" with no clear end to the surge in sight.

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

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