LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — The number of COVID-positive patients in Los Angeles County hospitals topped 4,000 Thursday as the Omicron variant continued to fuel a winter surge in infections.
County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said there were 4,175 COVID-19-positive patients in county hospitals as of Thursday. Of those hospitalized, 586 are being treated in intensive care. Wednesday, 3,912 patients were hospitalized with COVID-19 and 536 were in the ICU.
Thursday's hospitalization number is the highest it has been since early February 2021.
The Los Angeles Department of Public Health also reported there are 45,076 new cases of COVID in L.A. County Thursday and 45 additional deaths. She disclosed that as numbers have continued to climb nationwide, the United States is nearing the mark it set during 2020-2021's winter surge; the daily overall patient census - currently approximately 15,000 - is creeping up on the 16,500 peak the country set during that time.
Ferrer wanted to make it clear that despite indications that a peak could be near, the ever-rising numbers are a sign that we haven't quite gotten to that point. "One thing for sure, is that we are still increasing, "she told CBS reporters, "We're not plateauing, the numbers are 45,000, that's not a plateau. That's an increase."
Numbers have continued to grow locally as the county reported the second-highest daily rate total, with just under 5,000 new cases reported in Los Angeles County alone, as compared to Wednesday's total of 40,452. Over one-in-five percent of people who received COVID-19 tests were positive on Thursday, with a positivity rate of 20.8%.
With the additional 45 deaths reported - the most since March 4, 2021, the county totals are now 27,895 since the beginning of the pandemic.
"The sad thing is once we see these increases," Ferrer said, "they are likely to continue for weeks after cases plateau."
She is cautiously hopeful, noting that despite still not knowing everything about the newest variant, Omicron appears to continue presenting milder infections for many, "And while it's reassuring that much of the scientific evidence to date suggests that Omicron causes milder illness for many people, particularly those vaccinated and boosted, we still have no idea what percent of those recently infected with Omicron will experience long COVID, or the likelihood of children infected with Omicron developing MIS-C after their initial infection."
The county continued to urge residents to take the necessary steps in precaution, including obtaining both primary vaccination and booster shots, as well as upgrading facemasks to those of surgical standards, like N95, KN94 and KN95. They also urged that with the expansion of testing facilities - especially with the help of the National Guard, residents should get tested ahead of any social event.
"While we have tools that help, there is growing frustration over the seemingly endless changes in guidance, the short supply of tests and the reality that those vaccinated and boosted may also become infected," Ferrer said. "Since this is an accurate assessment of our current reality, I think we'll need to remind ourselves that we've survived similar challenges multiple times over the past two years."
Counties statewide are experiencing similar surges, including Riverside County, that reported it's first infant death due to COVID-19 on Thursday. They also reported a recent jump in COVID-19 cases amongst pediatric patients, noting that they have seen an increase in cases almost daily, and Loma Linda University Children's Health noted that they recently had 10 patients in their ICU with the virus.
"We've seen kids as young as under a month to children up to 17. Some kids are very, very ill, many kids actually are very, very ill," said Dr. Maulin Soneji, a Pediatric Infectious Disease Specialist.
As these numbers continue to surge nationwide, many medical facilities are beginning to feel the immense strain of the pandemic. A group of nurses rallied outside of California Hospital Medical Center on Thursday, to raise awareness and that short-staffed hospitals are struggling to keep up with the increasing number of COVID-19 patients. One nurse disclosed that their attempts to divert calls to other hospitals just revealed that other facilities are dealing with the same thing. Hundreds of hospitals and health centers have resorted to diversion as they clamber to meet the rising demand of patients, especially those seeking COVID testing.
With the Governor's activation of the California National Guard to assist at testing centers, health officials have noted that availability has increased substantially, which could help lessen the strain being placed on healthcare facilities.
Orange County has reported that despite an increase in cases, positivity rate and hospitalizations, they are noticing a stabilization in numbers for the first time since December, which could lead to a peak in the surge sooner than later.
(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)
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