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Coronavirus

Southern California ordered into lockdown Sunday

The hospitals in just two weeks are going to be much more impacted than they are now.”

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SACRAMENTO – The Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley regions have been ordered to enact a new stay-at-home order beginning Sunday night, December 6, after hospital intensive care beds availability in both regions capacity fell critically low and new COVID-19 cases continued to surge drastically a spokesperson for the California Department of Public Health said.

The Southern California order covers Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Imperial, Inyo, Mono, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Ventura counties.

Currently available ICU capacity by region as of Saturday:

  • Bay Area: 21.7%
  • Greater Sacramento Region: 21.4%
  • Rural Northern California: 24.1%
  • San Joaquin Valley: 8.6%
  • Southern California: 12.5%

“Today we had 22,000 cases, yesterday we had 18,700,” California Health and Human Services secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly, said in an emailed statement. “At these levels it tells you that the hospitals in just two weeks are going to be much more impacted than they are now.”

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health confirmed the highest number of new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations reported in a day with 8,860 new cases and 2,668 people currently hospitalized on Friday.

San Francisco Bay Area health officials announced on Friday that they would implement California’s new stay-at-home order early despite having more than 15% capacity in their intensive-care units.

“Today is a really tough day,” San Francisco Mayor London Breed told reporters during a press briefing Friday. “Our hospitalization rates are rising locally, especially in our ICU right now. And just as importantly, hospitalizations are rising everywhere, so if we run out of beds, there won’t be another county that can help us.” 

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health confirmed 44 new deaths and 8,948 new cases of COVID-19. This is the third consecutive day and fourth time this week the County has surpassed the previous all-time high of new cases. Over the last three days there have been a total of 25,402 new cases reported; a 3-day average of 8,467 daily new cases.

There are 2,769 people with COVID-19 currently hospitalized and 23% of these people are in the ICU. This is more people hospitalized for COVID-19 than at any point during the pandemic and the fifth consecutive day the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 surpassed the all-time high.

The State announced a Regional Stay Home Order will go into effect and would remain in effect for at least three weeks in California regions where ICU capacity falls below 15%.  According to the State, as of December 5, the Southern California Region has 12.5% staffed adult ICU capacity remaining. The State advises the Order goes into effect Sunday, December 6 at 11:59 p.m. and remains in effect for at least 3 weeks.

Because L.A. County is in the Southern California Region, the Los Angeles County Health Officer Order will be modified to fully align with additional safety measures across sectors and the required effective date. The Order prohibits private gatherings of any size, closes sector operations, and requires 100% masking and physical distancing.  The State Regional Stay at Home Order is similar to the existing County Safer at Home Health Offer with additional sector closings.

The following sectors are required to close or remain closed for all operations: 

  • Indoor and outdoor playgrounds
  • Indoor recreational facilities
  • Hair salons and barbershops
  • Personal care services
  • Museums, zoos, and aquariums
  • Movie theaters
  • Wineries
  • Bars, breweries, and distilleries
  • Family entertainment centers
  • Cardrooms and satellite wagering
  • Limited services as defined by the state
  • Live audience sports
  • Amusement parks

The following sectors will have additional modifications in addition to 100% masking and physical distancing:

  • Outdoor recreational facilities: Allow outdoor operation only without any food, drink or alcohol sales. Additionally, overnight stays for recreational visits at campgrounds will not be permitted.
  • Retail: Allowed indoor operation at 20% capacity with entrance metering and no eating or drinking in the stores. Additionally, special hours should be instituted for seniors and others with chronic conditions or compromised immune systems. 
  • Shopping centers: Allowed indoor operation at 20% capacity with entrance metering and no eating or drinking in the stores and all common areas closed. Additionally, special hours should be instituted for seniors and others with chronic conditions or compromised immune systems.
  • Hotels and lodging: Allowed to open for critical infrastructure support only.
  • Restaurants: Allowed only for take-out, pick-up, or delivery.
  • Offices: Allowed remote only except for critical infrastructure sectors where remote working is not possible. 
  • Places of worship and political expression: Allowed outdoor services only.
  • Entertainment production including professional sports: Allowed operation without live audiences. Additionally, testing protocol and “bubbles” are highly encouraged.
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Coronavirus

Los Angeles County surpasses 2 million COVID cases

While hospitalizations continue to climb, Public Health data shows that many positive cases are admitted for reasons other than COVID

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Los Angeles Blade file photo

LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles County health officials are urging residents to postpone nonessential gatherings and avoid some activities – especially those that will include people who are unmasked, unvaccinated or at higher risk of severe COVID-19 illness.

This comes as Los Angeles County recorded a grim milestone Monday as the Department of Public Health reports that the County has now confirmed more than 2 million total cases of COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic. 

The Los Angele Times reported early Tuesday that hundreds of thousands of Los Angeles Unified students returned to campus from winter break Tuesday morning amid a record-breaking surge in coronavirus cases.

As they stood in long lines to enter campus, the district’s health-screening system crashed. These conditions, including staffing shortages, student absences, and apprehensive parents and students, put the district’s carefully laid plans to open campuses in the nation’s second-largest school district to the test.

Although some students and parents were anxious amid the Omicron surge, they said they wanted to be back in the classroom. District leaders said strict campus safely precautions are in place, the Times reported.

The surge, which has now created uncertainty in the business community as some restaurants and other retail operations close up due to staffing shortages or out of caution, prompted County Public Health to ask that residents postpone nonessential gatherings just ahead of the long Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday weekend.

Public Health officials are also concerned as LA-based Super Bowl is a mere month away. The recommendation is voluntary and officials have not imposed any new restrictions that could put any events in jeopardy.

The latest Public Health data shows vaccines are still the best way to protect against the coronavirus. In L.A. County cases have continued to increase rapidly across all groups however at significantly lower levels for vaccinated individuals. For the week ending December 25th, case rates were much higher for those unvaccinated. There were 991 new cases per 100,000 unvaccinated; 588 cases per 100,000 fully vaccinated without boosters; and 254 cases per 100,000 fully vaccinated with boosters.

The vaccine also continues to provide very strong protection against hospitalization and death. One way to evaluate the protection offered by vaccines is rate ratios. These ratios compare rates of an outcome in unvaccinated people with rates of the same outcome in fully vaccinated people. The higher the rate ratio, the more protective the vaccine is against the outcome.

The hospital rate ratio was 9 when comparing those unvaccinated vs those fully vaccinated without boosters, meaning a 9-fold higher rate of hospitalization for the unvaccinated compared to this protected group. More markedly, the hospital rate ratio was 38 when comparing the unvaccinated vs fully vaccinated with boosters, meaning those fully vaccinated and boosted were 38 times less likely to be hospitalized than those unvaccinated.

“With surging transmission and rapidly rising cases and hospitalizations, our already understaffed health care providers are under enormous strain as they try to care for so many COVID infected people,” Barbara Ferrer, L.A. County Health Director said.

About 14% of the patients with COVID-19 were in the ICU, and 7% were on a ventilator.

“The good news is that while hospitalizations continue to climb, Public Health data shows that many positive cases are admitted for reasons other than COVID but, are identified with COVID when tested for COVID upon hospital admission,” the LA County Public Health Department said in a news release.

“However, at the moment, vaccinations alone are not sufficient to get us back to slowing the spread.  We all need to exercise more caution in the weeks ahead.  One effective strategy for reducing transmission is to wear a high-quality mask whenever around non-household members,” Ferrer said.

“Given the dominance of the highly infectious Omicron variant, well-fitting masks provide a great layer of protection to both the wearer and all those nearby. It is also time to pause those non-essential activities where people are unmasked and in close contact with others. The reality is that parties and events, especially those indoors, make it easy for the virus to spread. Limiting our time with others to those more essential work or school activities is a prudent action for us to take when-ever possible until the surge subsides,” she added.

COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective and are recommended for everyone 5 years old and older to help protect against COVID-19. Vaccinations are always free and open to eligible residents and workers regardless of immigration status. Appointments are not needed at all Public Health vaccination sites and many community sites where first, second, and third doses are available. 

To find a vaccination site near you, or to make an appointment, please visit:

www.VaccinateLACounty.com (English) or www.VacunateLosAngeles.com (Spanish). 

If you need assistance, you can also call 1-833-540-0473 for help: 

  • Finding an appointment
  • Connect to free transportation to and from a vaccination site, or 
  • Schedule a home visit if you are homebound. 

For more information regarding COVID-19 in LA County you can also visit the Public Health website at www.publichealth.lacounty.gov 

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Coronavirus

LA County launches new COVID test collection program

Testing partner sites listed on LA County’s website have been pre-screened to ensure that they offer testing with no out-of-pocket cost

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Screenshot via Spectrum News1 LA

LOS ANGELES – LA County Department of Health Services launches new program designed to increase and facilitate access to COVID-19 tests for LA County residents unable to obtain appointments.  The program will allow residents to pick up a PCR test kit, perform the test, and return the completed kit to designated locations for processing. Residents will be notified of their test results within 24-48 hours.

The “Pick-Up Testing Kit” program is the latest in a series of LA County efforts designed to expand testing capacity as demand grows across the county. Recent efforts to increase capacity include increasing the days and hours of operation for existing sites, adding mobile testing units, and providing intermittent availability of Home Testing Kits via mail. 

The new “Pick-Up Testing Kit” program will operate at 13 testing sites across LA County. “Pick-Up Test Kits” will be available without an appointment and until daily supplies are exhausted. The “Pick-Up Testing Kits” will test for both COVID-19 and Influenza (A and B), the same as all LA County operated testing locations.  

“We look forward to reducing the waiting time to get tested for individuals unable to book an appointment,” said Paula Siler RN, MS Director of Community Mobile Testing Operations at the LA County Department of Health Services.  “Once all 13 Pick-Up Testing locations are fully operating and once our Home Testing Kit by mail program is simultaneously relaunched later this week, we will have successfully added over 10,000 additional daily Covid tests available to the residents of LA County.”

For details and a full listing of “Pick-Up Testing Kit” locations and hours of operation please visit: Pick-Up Testing Kit

The new “Pick-Up Testing Kits” are available to all LA County residents who are experiencing symptoms or believe they have been exposed to someone with COVID-19. To preserve limited resources, the “Pick-Up Testing Kits” are not intended for use by those testing as a requirement to return to school, work or participate in other activities where routine testing is mandated. The “Pick-Up Testing Kits” offer only PCR testing not rapid testing.

Individuals who need to get tested as part of a requirement for work, school, or other activities should seek testing via their employer, school district or the entity requiring the testing.

LA County residents can find COVID-19 testing sites at covid19.lacounty.gov/testing/

All testing locations listed within the county testing website offer COVID-19 tests at no out-of-pocket cost, regardless of insurance coverage or immigration status.

It is important that LA County residents understand that not all COVID-19 testing sites within the LA County region are affiliated or operated by LA County. COVID testing sites are also being operated by private companies, private health care systems and local municipalities and some of these privately operated sites do charge for their testing services.

Only the testing sites listed within the LA County COVID-19 testing website covid19.lacounty.gov/testing/have been vetted by LA County.

As of January 7, 2021 – there are approximately 260 COVID-19 testing locations listed in the LA County’s COVID-19 testing site (covid19.lacounty.gov/testing/), of those, the county operates about 66 community sites and 7 state sites. The remaining locations are operated by testing partners.

Testing partner sites listed on LA County’s website are sites that have been pre-screened by LA County to ensure that they offer testing with no out-of-pocket cost, regardless of health insurance or immigration status and that they offer testing using a test approved by the FDA.

LA County does not have oversight over testing sites not directly operated by the LA County Department of Health Services.

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Coronavirus

LA County cases explode as mask mandate extended till February 15

President Joe Biden saying there’s “no excuse for anyone being unvaccinated after U.S. hits 1 million new cases in 24 hours

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Screenshot via CNBC on YouTube

LOS ANGELES – California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly announced Wednesday that the state will extend its mask mandate for indoor public spaces for another month as an unprecedented wave of the Omicron variant of coronavirus infections continues to inundate the Golden State.

The statewide order was reinstituted in mid-December, and was originally set to be reevaluated January 15. But given the sharp recent rise in infections and hospitalizations, the order will be in place through at least February 15, said Ghaly.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health modified its Health Officer Order to include additional safety measures to reduce transmission risks, the Department acknowledging that vaccinations alone are not sufficient to prevent spread of the Omicron variant.

As soon as possible, but no later than January 17th, employers in LA County are required to provide their employees who work indoors in close contact with others with well-fitting medical grade masks, surgical masks, or higher-level respirators, such as N95 or KN95 masks. These upgraded masks are better at blocking virus particles from going through the mask.

The new modifications include an alignment with the State Public Health Officer Order changing attendance thresholds at mega events; for outdoor mega events, the new attendance threshold has been lowered to 5,000 attendees, and for indoor mega events, the new threshold is 500 attendees.

Operators of mega events, performance venues, movie theaters, and entertainment venues are responsible for the messaging, signage, and compliance of masking requirements unless spectators or customers are actively eating or drinking. Additionally, Public Health recommends that food and drink be consumed in designated dining areas.

Lastly, food and drinks are prohibited at card room gaming tables and masks must always be worn while indoors at card rooms, except for when actively eating or drinking in designated dining areas. 

As the case count continues to climb, numerous events are being cancelled or moved to a virtual setting. The Los Angeles Times reported that the 64th Grammy Awards will not take place Jan. 31 in Los Angeles, due to the rapid spread of the highly infectious Omicron variant.

The Recording Academy, which presents music’s most prestigious awards show, said Wednesday that “holding the show on January 31 simply contains too many risks” and added that a new date would be announced “soon.”

The Times also reported Wednesday that more than 1,000 police officers, firefighters and paramedics in the Los Angeles region are ill or at home quarantining after testing positive for the coronavirus, spurring additional concerns about public safety as the Omicron variant continues its rapid spread.

More than 500 employees of the Los Angeles Police Department – including 416 officers – were at home quarantining as of Jan. 1 after positive tests, the department said. In the last week alone, the LAPD had seen 424 new cases, officials said.

The Los Angeles Fire Department had 201 employees out due to the coronavirus and the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department was missing 552 employees, including 389 deputies, officials said.

The Los Angeles County courts system will pause all criminal trials for two weeks beginning Wednesday, as infections continue to surge across the region due to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant.

While the coronavirus-positive patient count has more than doubled in the last nine days in Los Angeles, Orange and Ventura counties, a number of the patients who have tested positive in some L.A. County hospitals were admitted for something other than the coronavirus. That is starkly different from what was seen in earlier surges, when most coronavirus-positive patients were hospitalized because they had been sickened by the virus.

Earlier this week, Public Health noted that pediatric hospitalizations increased by nearly 190% between December 4th and December 25th. While the numbers of children hospitalized remain very small, those 0-4 years old saw the biggest rise in rates with a 3.25-fold increase, followed by 12-to-17- year- old teens, who had a 3.0-fold increase, and 5-to-11 -year- old, who saw an increase of 1.5-fold. Cases among children have also increased by 207% from the two-week period starting on November 8th to the two-week period ending on December 26th.

Other cancellations included the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra January 8, “Strings for the Ages” concert at The Broad Stage.

The City of Palm Springs alerted its residents Wednesday that Mayor Lisa Middleton tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. In a Facebook post, the City wrote:

Middleton is following medical advice and direction and will spend at minimum the next ten days days at home in isolation as she recovers from what she described as mild symptoms. During isolation Middleton will continue her mayoral duties to the maximum extent possible.

On Tuesday, Middleton woke up with a sore throat and has not left home except to get tested. Following the positive result, Middleton immediately notified the small number of people she had contact with outside of her home over the last several days.

“Since the onset of COVID-19, we in Palm Springs have recognized the need to be extremely cautious when it comes to wearing a mask and have continually encouraged vaccinations and booster shots in order to keep everyone in our community safe,” said Middleton.

“I am grateful for the advice of medical experts, and in particular the diligence of Riverside County Public Health officials. I feel extremely fortunate that my symptoms are mild. The health and safety of our residents and visitors are our number one priority in Palm Springs and I encourage everyone to get fully vaccinated, boosted and regularly tested. This is the best way we can take care of one another,” said Middleton. “We are all in this together.”

On Monday the United States hit a record 1 million new cases in just a 24 hour period. President Joe Biden addressed the nation, saying there’s “no excuse for anyone being unvaccinated.”

Biden Under Pressure As U.S. Hits 1 Million Covid Cases In A Day Amid Testing Shortage:

At the White House, the administration’s point man on handling the crisis, Jeffrey D. Zients spoke to reporters noting:

“The coming weeks are going to be challenging.  We’re going to see cases continue to rise because Omicron is a very transmissible variant.  But it’s important to stay focused on three things.
 
First, we have the tools to keep ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities safe.  And importantly, we have the tools we need to keep our schools open.

Second, the impact of rising cases depends on a person’s vaccination status.
 
While we are seeing COVID cases among the vaccinated, if you’re fully vaccinated and especially if you’ve gotten a booster shot — if you’re eligible for a booster shot — you’re highly protected, and it’s very unlikely that you’ll get seriously ill.
 
But if you’re unvaccinated, you have a good reason to be concerned.  If you get COVID, you’re at a high risk of getting severely ill, being hospitalized, and even dying.
 
So, please, get vaccinated.  Get your kids vaccinated.  And if you’re eligible for a booster, get a booster shot.

And third, the Biden administration is deploying every available measure to help states, communities, and hospitals confront this Omicron challenge.  Military doctors, nurses, and EMTs are now in place assisting local hospital staff in states across the country, with additional teams ready to deploy as needed.
 
We’ve shipped 2.4 million pieces of personal protective equipment — PPE — in the last two weeks alone to help keep healthcare workers safe.
 
We’ve established free testing locations across the nation, with additional new sites opening soon in Maine, Maryland, Nevada, Delaware, Texas, and Washington State.
 
And we’ve worked aggressively to stock our nation’s medicine cabinet with a diverse portfolio of COVID treatments.  It’s important to remember that we have more effective treatments available now than at any point during the pandemic.”

He also added; “In addition, we’re working with Pfizer to accelerate the delivery of these pills, and we’ll now have the first 10 million treatment cycles — courses — by the end of June instead of the end of September.  These pills can dramatically decrease hospitalizations and deaths and are a game-changer, with the potential to alter the impact of COVID on people and on our nation.”

In Los Angeles Public Health is reminding residents to avoid visiting the emergency room unless they need emergency medical care. Residents should not be visiting the emergency department solely to get a COVID test or for minor complaints that could be resolved through their primary care physician. Emergency room visits should be reserved for those patients who are feeling severely ill – for example, those who are short of breath – or who have serious concerns about their health and who require immediate emergency care. 

To keep workplaces and schools open, residents and workers are asked to:

  • Get tested to help reduce the spread, especially if you traveled for the holidays, have had a possible exposure, or have symptoms, or are gathering with people not in your household
  • Adhere to masking requirements when indoors or at crowded outdoor spaces, regardless of vaccination status

Residents are legally required to be isolated if they have a positive COVID test result and that vaccinated close contacts with symptoms and unvaccinated close contacts need to be quarantined.  

For updated isolation and quarantine guidance, please visit www.publichealth.lacounty.gov

COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective and are recommended for everyone 5 years old and older to help protect against COVID-19. Vaccinations are always free and open to eligible residents and workers regardless of immigration status. Appointments are not needed at all Public Health vaccination sites and many community sites where first, second, and third doses are available. 

 To find a vaccination site near you, or to make an appointment, please visit:

www.VaccinateLACounty.com (English) or www.VacunateLosAngeles.com (Spanish). 

If you need assistance, you can also call 1-833-540-0473 for help: 

Finding an appointment

Connect to free transportation to and from a vaccination site, or 

Schedule a home visit if you are homebound. 

For more information regarding COVID-19 in LA County you can also visit the Public Health website at www.publichealth.lacounty.gov

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