Los Angeles County reported another 1,777 COVID-19 infections on Wednesday, Sept. 14, along with 16 more virus-related deaths.
There were also 717 COVID-19-positive patients in county hospitals as of Wednesday, down from 735 on Tuesday, according to state figures. Of those patients, 89 were being treated in intensive care, up from 83 a day earlier.
County officials have said about 43% of patients with COVID-19 were actually hospitalized because of virus-related illness, while the rest were admitted for other reasons, with some only learning they were infected when they were tested upon admission.
The new infections reported Wednesday lifted the county’s cumulative total from throughout the pandemic to 3,433,754. The official number of new cases reported each day is believed to be an undercount of actual infections in the county because of the wide usage of at-home tests, the results of which are not generally reported to the Department of Public Health.
The 16 new COVID-19-related deaths, meanwhile, lifted the county’s overall death toll to 33,414.
The average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus was 5.8% as of Wednesday, roughly the same as the past week.
The county’s rate of new infections has been dropping at a pace that could soon lead officials to loosen the county’s indoor masking recommendations, Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer told the Board of Supervisors this week.
The county averaged roughly 1,700 new COVID-19 infections per day over the past week, Ferrer said, a roughly 21% drop from the 2,100 per day during the previous week. The county’s weekly rate of new infections was 127 per 100,000 residents as of Tuesday.
When that rate falls below 100 per 100,000 residents, which could happen within days, the county will change its recommendation for indoor mask-wearing, Ferrer said. Currently, masks are “strongly recommended” in most indoor settings, but when the county’s weekly case rate falls below 100, masking will become a matter of “individual preference.”
But masking will still be mandatory in places where it is specifically required, Ferrer said, including health care facilities, in correctional facilities, in homeless shelters, aboard public transit and in businesses that choose to mandate them. Mask-wearing will also continue to be required indoors for 10 days — including at schools — for people who have been exposed to the virus.
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That requirement has generated vocal opposition from some local school district superintendents, who have urged the county to remove the rule for students and staff who may have been exposed but are not showing any symptoms.
Despite that lobbying, the rule remains in place, although Ferrer said Tuesday the county has taken steps to allow parents to obtain exemptions through their health care providers.
She conceded that the falling transmission rate countywide is an indication that “the risk of getting infected or infecting others is reduced.”
But, Ferrer said, people who are exposed to or infected with the virus still present a risk of transmitting the virus to others.