9 in 10 Californians live in areas with high COVID-19 levels

Nearly 9 in 10 Californians now live in counties with high COVID-19 community levels where the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends universal masking in indoor public spaces.

The new developments underscore growing concerns about super-infectious subvariants of Omicron that have been fueling a summer coronavirus wave.

With the resurgence of the coronavirus and increases in cases and hospitalizations, Los Angeles is poised to become the first Southern California county to reinstate mandatory indoor public mask requirements.

LA County officially entered high municipal level on Thursday. If it stays there for the next two weeks, the county will re-enact an indoor mask mandate effective July 29.

No other California county has publicly linked its placement on the CDC’s community-level scale to a renewal of masking orders. In addition to LA, 41 other districts are at the high level as of this week.

Most places recommend, but do not require, dressing up in public.

Along with Los Angeles County, San Diego, Orange, Santa Barbara, Imperial and Tehama are the other counties added to the high COVID-19 community level category on Thursday for the first time since mid-March.

A total of 42 of California’s 58 counties are now in the high COVID-19 community level, home to 87% of California residents. Just a week earlier, 41% of Californians lived in the 34 counties with high levels of COVID-19 in the community.

Ventura County was the first Southern California county to enter the COVID-19 high community level on June 30.

COVID-19 Community Levels

Given the high case numbers, counties generally enter the high COVID-19 community level when hospitalizations exceed a threshold of 10 new weekly coronavirus-positive hospitalizations per 100,000 residents.

(There is also another threshold for entering the high COVID-19 community level — based on the percentage of staffed hospital beds occupied by COVID-19 patients — but counties generally reach the other threshold first. )

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in February they chose these measures as the threshold for entry into the high COVID-19 community level because they are a good predictor of deaths, new hospitalizations, and use of represent intensive care units.

The system was set up to inform people when it was relatively more important to dress up in indoor public spaces. “Multi-pronged prevention strategies — like staying on top of vaccines and wearing masks — can help prevent serious illness and reduce the burden on the health care system,” the CDC said in February.

The California Department of Health and Human Services has strongly recommended that people ages 2 and older mask in indoor public places since the state lifted a two-month-old mask order in February.

Los Angeles County’s coronavirus case numbers continue to rise rapidly.

LA County is now averaging about 6,800 new coronavirus cases per day, up 35% on the week. That’s the highest week-to-week increase since the days leading up to Memorial Day weekend.

Last winter’s Omicron wave peaked at 42,000 cases per day.

On a per capita basis, LA County was reporting 469 coronavirus cases per week per 100,000 residents as of Friday; a rate of 100 or more is considered high. The coronavirus case rate hasn’t been this high since early February.

A renewed Los Angeles County mandate would apply to individuals ages 2 and older in a familiar variety of settings and venues — including shared office space, manufacturing and retail environments, event spaces, restaurants and bars, gyms and yoga studios, educational institutions and children’s programs.

Importantly, however, masks are not required for those who are outdoors, as the risk of transmission in these environments is significantly lower than indoors.

Patrons could also remove their masks indoors when actively eating or drinking.

“We’re not closing anything. We’re not asking people not to hang out with the people they love. We’re not asking you to give up activities you love,” Los Angeles County Director of Public Health Barbara Ferrer said last week. “We are asking that you take a sensible step when there is so much transmission with a highly transmissible variant and put back on a well-fitting, high-filtration mask when you are in enclosed spaces around others. And I think that’s the most sensible thing to do.”

The new wave was fueled by BA.5, a super-infectious subvariant that has demonstrated the ability to reinfect even those recently infected with a previous Omicron subvariant.

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-07-17/9-in-10-californians-live-in-areas-with-high-covid-19-levels 9 in 10 Californians live in areas with high COVID-19 levels

Alley Einstein

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