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LA County moved from 'low' to 'medium' COVID level as cases rise

CDC moves LA County from 'low' to 'medium' risk level
CDC moves LA County from 'low' to 'medium' risk level 02:21

Los Angeles County's rate of COVID-19 spread moved from low to medium Thursday prompting county officials to remind residents to mask up indoors, get vaccinated and boosted and get tested at the first sign of illness.

"We have now moved to a medium community level which is concerning since it could signal that the increases that we're seeing in our COVID cases may soon put pressure on our healthcare resources," said County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer.

The change happens when there are more than 200 cases per 100,000 residents. As of Thursday, the county reported 202 cases per 100,000 people.

L.A. County is the first of the Southern California counties to see this downgrade as a new wave of cases brought on by the BA.2 subvariant of Omicron continues to spread.

According to Ferrer, the Omicron strain of the coronavirus accounts for all of the newly reported cases.

The number of cases marks a dramatic increase and the highest rate of spread since February. 

Positive cases among students in the Los Angeles Unified School District have jumped by 300%. Outbreaks have also been reported in nursing homes and at some work sites.

On Thursday, the county reported 4,725 new COVID infections bringing the total caseload to 2,926,848. Officials also reported nine additional deaths bringing the death toll to 32,064.

Meanwhile, there were 379 COVID-positive patients in county hospitals, 53 of which were in intensive care units. 

Dr. Jerry Abraham, who works at Kedren Health Center, detailed that they're seeing a significant uptick in cases, including those in children. 

"We're seeing folks with head cold symptoms, GI, upset stomach pain, we're seeing fevers, chills," Abraham explained while running through an extensive list of symptoms. 

He's pushing for parents to get their children boosted, especially after the CDC also authorized the Pfizer booster for ages 5 to 11 on Thursday.

Officials say the change in community transmission will not trigger any immediate changes in health regulations but it could happen if the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention moves the county moved to the "high" COVID level.

"Nobody here wants to see us move to any categorization that could possibly cause stress on our healthcare system or result in more people getting sick or dying," Ferrer continued.

The "high" level would be reached if the county's hospitalizations moved to 10 per 100,000 residents or if 10% of the county's hospital beds were occupied by COVID-positive patients.

CBS reporters spoke with one family who had remained COVID-free up until recently, remaining masked-up even in their home to protect their baby.

"We don't want to risk her," said Yvonne, the baby's grandmother.

Other families on the opposite side of the spectrum said that at this point in the pandemic, COVID isn't as much of a concern. 

"I believe that I've done everything that I'm supposed to do," said another woman. "I've been responsible with it and now it's time to live on."

Ferrer also noted that L.A. County Public Health officials will meet Friday to discuss extending the mask policy in effect for public transportation systems and hubs like LAX.

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