The slight but steady increase in COVID-19 infections in recent weeks has led to a jump in reported workplace outbreaks of the virus, Los Angeles County public health officials said Thursday.
According to the county Department of Public Health, the agency opened 73 new investigations of COVID-19 outbreaks during the 30-day period ending Sept. 1, nearly three times the number from the previous 30-day period.
During that same period, the county received 154 "cluster reports" from worksites in the county. Worksites are required to report clusters of three or more potentially linked cases of COVID-19 that occur within a seven- day period.
All cluster reports are investigated to determine if they qualify as worksite outbreaks, county officials said.
"The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) guidelines note that employers should have procedures in place for seeking information from employees related to COVID-19 cases and close contacts in the workplace, including collecting and keeping confidential records of all COVID- 19 cases," according to a statement from the county.
"Once a COVID-19 case is identified, the person who tests positive will need to isolate and not return to work for a minimum of five days. Employees may return to the workplace on the sixth day after testing positive if they have been fever-free for at least 24 hours without the use of fever- reducing medication and their symptoms are mild or improving. For those employees who meet the criteria to end isolation and return to work on day six, Cal/OSHA requires masking through day 10 at workplaces."
All close contacts of the patient also must be notified by the employer, and exposed workers should wear a mask around others for 10 days.
The county on Thursday also reported a 43% increase in school outbreaks, with 33 new such outbreaks reported over the past week, up from 23 the prior week.
"This reflects the continued higher rate of spread of COVID-19, and means that sensible protections, such as remaining home when sick, frequent handwashing, testing when exposed or ill, and wearing a well-fitting mask where required or appropriate, are appropriate steps everyone can take," according to the county.
For the week ending Wednesday, the county reported an average of 569 new cases each day, roughly the same as the previous week but up from 384 in mid-August. Case numbers are an undercount of actual virus activity, since most people take advantage of at-home tests, which are not reported to the county.
Average daily hospitalizations of COVID-positive patients were 559 for the week ending Wednesday, up from 523 the previous week and up from 330 in mid-August.
Average daily deaths due to the virus, however, have remained mostly flat, at about 1 per day. County Health Director Barbara Ferrer said last week that steady number is likely due to the number of people who are vaccinated and the availability of treatments to prevent the virus from causing severe illness.
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