1,300 more COVID-19 cases logged in LA County; boosters urged ahead of winter

Los Angeles County reported more than 1,300 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, Oct. 13, while the health director again urged residents to receive vaccine booster shots to avoid a surge of virus-related hospitalizations like those seen the previous two winters.

The 1,374 new cases lifted the county’s overall total from throughout the pandemic to 3,469,663. The official number reported each day is believed to be an undercount of actual virus activity in the county, due to the prevalent use of at-home tests that are not always reported to the county.

Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said during a Thursday briefing that the county is trying to counter that discrepancy by closely monitoring the presence of COVID in wastewater streams. Thus far, however, that concentration has not risen high enough to trigger concern.

She again warned, however, that the continued emergence of new mutations of the virus is a constant concern that could again trigger a rise in cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

Ferrer noted that the past two winters have seen significant surges in infections, with more people spending time indoors and mingling in areas with reduced ventilation. Last winter’s surge, however, was notably different because the spike in infections did not lead to overwhelming numbers of people being hospitalized — the result of widespread vaccinations and immunity from previous infections.

But with new variants constantly arising and vaccine protection waning over time, there is always the fear that another surge could again threaten hospital capacity.

She again urged residents to receive the most recent COVID booster shot, which is specifically engineered against currently circulating strains of the virus.

If enough people get booster shots, she said, “we could avoid what happened the last two winters, which is a real strain on our health care system.”

According to state figures, there were 455 COVID-positive patients in Los Angeles County hospitals as of Thursday, down slightly from 459 on Wednesday. Of those patients, 50 were being treated in intensive care, down from 56 a day earlier.

County officials have said that roughly 40% of COVID-positive patients were admitted specifically for COVID, while the others were hospitalized for other reasons but tested positive upon admission.

Another 13 virus-related deaths were reported by the county Thursday, raising the overall death toll from the pandemic to 33,797.

The seven-day average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus was 4.4% as of Thursday, holding roughly steady over the past week.