Why is COVID increasing so fast in L.A. County?

A few weeks ago, there was cautious optimism that there would be no significant COVID-19 spike this winter.

But in Los Angeles County, that prospect is in jeopardy. Case numbers are rising rapidly, causing more and more Angelenos to be hospitalized and raising the possibility of a renewed indoor public mask mandate that could arrive shortly after the New Year.

But why is the country’s most populous borough struggling with such a significant increase?

Factors that may play a role include a shorter incubation period for the latest Omicron strain, meaning there would be a shorter period between exposure to the virus and infection.

“People came back from Thanksgiving and they tested positive pretty quickly,” said Barbara Ferrer, the county’s director of public health. At her agency, “we’ve had more people testing positive right after Thanksgiving than ever before,” with transmission occurring during holiday gatherings rather than at work.

“A shorter incubation period earlier in December could contribute to a faster increase in cases than in the past two years,” she said.

BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 are now the dominant versions of the nationwide circulating coronavirus. Her BA.5 parent strain is said to have an incubation period of three to five days.

For the week ending Tuesday, LA County reported an average of 3,829 new coronavirus cases per day — twice the Thanksgiving figure. Per capita, that is 265 cases per week per 100,000 inhabitants. A rate of 100 or more is considered high.

A year ago, the county recorded 112 new cases per week per 100,000 residents.

“We got that spike a little earlier,” Ferrer said in an interview with The Times.

Public health officials have long flagged Thanksgiving and the broader winter holiday season as a potential starting point for a spike. With so many gatherings planned in just a few weeks, and many being held indoors due to the colder weather, conditions are ripe for a coronavirus rebound – as has been the case for each of the past two years.

The intergenerational nature of such events also plays a role, as older residents are at greater risk of developing severe COVID-19 illness.

Ferrer said she’s concerned that many people have stopped worrying about COVID-19. But if there’s a time to be careful, it’s now, she said.

“We’re seeing rapid acceleration again,” Ferrer said. “Now it’s time to put that mask back on.”

Officials also stress the importance of getting updated COVID-19 vaccine boosters – which were introduced in September – and are urging more doctors to prescribe antiviral drugs like Paxlovid for eligible patients.

“That would also achieve one of our biggest goals,” Ferrer said, which is to reduce the number of seriously ill people.

And she urged people not to discount the fact that older people are the most likely to die from COVID-19. Preventative measures like wearing a mask can reduce illness, she said.

Holiday events can lead to outbreaks of the coronavirus, but taking certain precautions can reduce the risk. Strategies include hosting outdoor events and wearing a mask when not actively eating and drinking, Ferrer said.

For smaller gatherings in homes with friends and family, hosts might consider having everyone take a rapid coronavirus test before the event, Ferrer said. It will help identify those most likely to be infectious, even if they are asymptomatic.

But a pure test strategy alone is not perfect, because there are situations in which some people are contagious but have not yet tested positive in a rapid corona test.

And of course, officials say residents should stay home if they’re sick.

“This is about real people, real lives, real families and real communities across the state, so it certainly helps the state to do its little bit.” But more importantly, it helps you and your family have the safest holiday season that you can,” said California Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. Mark Ghaly.

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-12-07/why-is-covid-surge-signals-danger Why is COVID increasing so fast in L.A. County?

Alley Einstein

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