LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) - For the third time in a week and second time in two days, Los Angeles County has set a record for new COVID-19 infections, reporting more than 43,000 new cases and 28 virus-related fatalities.
The 43,712 infections reported Friday is the highest daily total of the entire pandemic, breaking the record set Thursday, when 37,215 new cases were announced. Last Friday, the county announced a then-record 27,091 infections.
Long lines to get COVID tests in Los Angeles are an ongoing issue for many residents.
Jose Silerio said he got lucky Saturday when he found a brand new COVID testing site in Santa Monica.
"We live nearby and the line is much better so definitely much easier," said Silerio.
The company 911 COVID Testing opened a mega-site Saturday with the ability to test 2000 people a day.
"Over the past 3 or 4 weeks the numbers have jumped from a couple of hundred cars per day to over 4-thousand appointments," said Farhad Tajali of 911 COVID Testing.
Meanwhile, to support local communities with additional testing facilities and capacity amid the national surge in COVID-19 cases driven by the Omicron variant, California Governor Gavin Newsom on Friday announced the activation the California National Guard.
"California has led the country's fight against COVID-19, implementing first-in-the-nation public health measures that have helped save tens of thousands of lives," Newsom said. "We continue to support communities in their response to COVID by bolstering testing capacity."
The announcement comes as Omicron continues to spread rapidly across the globe, accounting for at least 80% of COVID-19 cases in California.
"I tested positive a little while ago," said Yasmin Tont, who was getting tested in LA Saturday. "No symptoms but I want to confirm I'm negative so I can be around people."
Throughout the pandemic, the county has reported a cumulative total of 1,887,526 infections. The 28 new fatalities reported Friday lifted the county's overall death toll to 43,712.
Along with the increased case numbers came the anticipated rise in hospitalizations figures, with state figures showing 2,902 COVID-positive patients in county hospitals as of Friday. That was up from 2,661 on Thursday. Of the hospitalized patients, 391 were being treated in intensive care units, up from 352 a day earlier.
While still well short of the peak hospitalization numbers seen last winter -- when more than 8,000 COVID-positive patients filled hospitals -- the rising number is still generating concern. Health care facilities are finding themselves increasingly short-staffed, in part because of COVID infections among health care workers.
According to the county Department of Public Health, 973 infections among health care workers were reported over the past week, a jump of 47% from the prior period. That rise comes despite the relatively high rate of vaccinations among health care workers -- showing the power of the Omicron variant of the virus to infect even vaccinated residents, although they are less likely to become severely ill.
The state is requiring all health care workers in the state to receive a booster dose of vaccine by Feb. 1. Those who do not receive the booster must be tested twice weekly.
"Keeping health care workers safe is critical to maintaining functionality across our health care facilities when surges lead to staffing shortages and rising rates of hospitalizations," county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement. "Across multiple healthcare settings, our health care personnel have given their all and been fully vaccinated at high levels for many months.
"Every resident can also do their part to protect our health care personnel and hospitals. Please get vaccinated or boosted as soon as possible if eligible. Vaccinated individuals are between 10 and 30 times less likely to need hospital care than those unvaccinated. We ask that you do not go to the emergency room unless you need care for a serious medical concern and please do not call 911 unless you have a life-threatening emergency."
The county's rolling average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus was 20.9% as of Friday.
Surging infection numbers prompted the county this week to amend its public health order, requiring employers to provide upgraded masks to employees who work indoors in close contact with others.
The order, issued Wednesday, will take effect Jan. 17 and requires employers to provide affected workers with "well-fitting medical grade masks, surgical masks, or higher-level respirators, such as N95 or KN95 masks."
The revised order also amended the definition of outdoor "mega events," where masking is required, to 5,000 or more attendees; and the definition of indoor "mega" events to 500 or more people. The numbers align with those in the state's health order. The county's order also "recommends" that food and drink be consumed only in designated dining areas.
The upgraded mask requirement for county workplaces mirrors an order released late last week by the county for K-12 schools, requiring teachers and staff to wear higher-grade face coverings. USC announced this week it will require all students and staff to wear higher-grade masks when in-person classes resume.
According to county figures released Thursday, of the more than 6.4 million fully vaccinated people in the county, 199,314 have tested positive for the virus, for a rate of 3.1%, while 3,348 have been hospitalized, for a rate of 0.05%. A total of 625 fully vaccinated people have died, for a rate of 0.01%.
The testing-positivity rate, however, may be artificially low due to the number of people who use take-home tests and don't report the results.
Overall, 79% of eligible county residents aged 5 and older have received at least one dose of vaccine, while 71% are fully vaccinated. Of the county's overall population of 10.3 million people, 75% have received at least one dose, and 67% are fully vaccinated.
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