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LA County: Indoor Mask Mandate Could Return Amid COVID Surge

Los Angeles County reported more than 5,000 new COVID-19 infections in its latest data as rising case numbers continued to point to a winter viral surge, with hospitalization numbers also climbing upward again.

The 5,051 new cases reported by the county Department of Public Health gave the county an overall total from throughout the pandemic of 3,570,525.

Health officials have noted that the officially reported case numbers are an undercount of actual virus activity in the county, since many residents take at-home tests without reporting the results, and many others don’t bother getting tested at all.

The county also reported 12 more COVID-related deaths on Wednesday, lifting the cumulative death toll to 34,263.

According to state figures, there were 1,293 COVID-positive patients in county hospitals as of Wednesday, up from 1,270 on Tuesday and up more than 100 from a week ago. Of those patients, 142 were being treated in intensive care units, down from 151 a day earlier.

The seven-day average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus was 13.6% as of Wednesday.

County health officials are keeping a close watch on COVID-related hospitalization numbers, warning that continued increases could lead to another indoor mask-wearing mandate in public spaces.

The county has already moved into the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “medium” virus activity level, after weeks in the “low” category. The county could move into the “high” category as early as this week, if the weekly rate of new infections reaches 200 per 100,000 residents. As of last Thursday, that rate was 185 per 100,000 residents, county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said last week.

The CDC updates its classifications every Thursday.

Ferrer said the county will re-impose an indoor mask mandate if it moves into the “high” category and if the county’s virus-related hospitalization numbers reach two thresholds:
   — if the rate of daily hospital admissions tops 10 per 100,000 residents; and
   — if the percent of staffed hospital beds occupied by COVID patients tops 10%.

The county has already surpassed the first threshold, with the rate of daily hospital admissions already at 14.5 per 100,000 residents as of Sunday, according to the CDC. The percent of hospital beds occupied by COVID patients was 6.6% as of Sunday, still below the 10% threshold.

Masks are still required indoors at health care and congregate-care facilities, for anyone exposed to the virus in the past 10 days, and at businesses where they are required by the owner.

In other indoor locations, masking is only “strongly recommended” by the county.

Source: NBC Los Angeles

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