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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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Coronavirus

L.A. County on track to bring back mandatory indoor masking

If LA county stays in CDC designated High Community Level for 2 consecutive weeks officials would implement a universal indoor masking

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Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health indicated that if the upward trend in coronavirus numbers continues, due to the increased circulation of the more infectious BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron subvariants coupled with increased community spread, officials may order a return to indoor masks.

On Friday, Public Health said that while the county currently remains at the CDC designated COVID-19 Medium Community Level. There are increasing concerns about the impact of new Omicron sub-variants on transmission and hospitalizations that could result in the County moving into the High Community Level designation sometime later this summer.

Barbara Ferrer, Director of LA County Public Health expressed concern and cautioned Angelenos as the region prepares for the July 4th holiday weekend.

“Since July 4 is right around the corner and many of us are looking forward to celebrating Independence Day with family and friends, it is important to remember that many of our loved ones may be older adults, or have serious underlying health conditions, or not yet been vaccinated and boosted,” Ferrer said.

“Given the rising number of COVID cases and hospitalizations, and the increased circulation of the more infectious BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants, it is extra important to take steps that reduce the risk of transmission especially over the long holiday weekend; this helps us protect ourselves, our families, and our community,” She continued adding, “With a little planning, you can have a great time celebrating while keeping each other safe. Please be sure to remind friends and family to stay home and skip the celebration if they feel sick or have tested positive.  It is also a great idea for everyone to test themselves before getting together, ideally on the day of the gathering. It is always best to celebrate outdoors, and if people come indoors for part of the gathering, wearing a mask is advisable, particularly if there are individuals at high risk of severe illness should they become infected.”

LA County Public Health pointed out in a statement that six of the seven Early Alert metrics Public Health are tracking continue to convey cause for Medium or High Concern. Moreover, in the past week, four Early Alert Signals moved upward in the level of concern: The case rate in the lowest income areas and the number of new outbreaks at Skilled Nursing Facilities per week, both moved up to High Concern.

The number of new outbreaks in settings for People Experiencing Homelessness is now at Medium Concern. And the number of worksite clusters increased, moving from Medium to High Concern for the first time since Public Health started tracking this metric in early March.

There was also an uptick in the percentage of Emergency Department Visits. The only measure indicating Low Concern is the number of sewer systems with a two-fold increase in viral load.

The first of two hospital metrics in the CDC Community Levels Framework is the seven-day total of new hospital admissions per 100,000, which rose this past week to 8.1 admissions per 100,000 people. This is a 56% increase compared to one month ago. The second hospital metric, the seven-day average for the proportion of staffed inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients, also increased this past week to 4.2%.

If the county moves into the CDC designated High Community Level and remains there for two consecutive weeks, the county would implement a universal indoor masking requirement for everyone age 2 and older in LA County as a safety measure aligned with the CDC framework. The safety measure would remain in effect until the county returned to the CDC Medium Community Level designation, or lower, for two consecutive weeks. 

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Coronavirus

CDC: 85% of gay & lesbian adults in U.S. are vaccinated against COVID

Data on COVID-19 vaccination among LGBTQ persons limited because of the lack of routine SOGI data collection at the national & state levels

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Photo Credit: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/GSA

ATLANTA – A new study report released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (CDC), found that found 85.4% of gay and lesbian Americans above age 18 had received at least one vaccine dose as of October 2021.

The study, conducted from August 29 until October 30, 2021, also found that by comparison, only 76.3% of heterosexuals reported receiving at least an initial dose by the same date.

The report noted that Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) populations have higher prevalence of health conditions associated with severe COVID-19 illness compared with non-LGBT populations.

The potential for low vaccine confidence and coverage among LGBT populations is of concern because these persons historically experience challenges accessing, trusting, and receiving health care services

Data on COVID-19 vaccination among LGBT persons are limited, in part because of the lack of routine data collection on sexual orientation and gender identity at the national and state levels.

In March of 2021, the Blade reported the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has revealed deep-seated inequities in health care for communities of color and amplifies social and economic factors that have contributed to those communities being hit hardest, and Mega-vaccination centers set up by California health officials and the Federal Emergency Management Agency have been addressing and tracking the issue- the LGBTQ communities are still not being tracked.

This lack of data collection has frustrated and angered California State Senator Scott Wiener who authored a bill last year that passed through the legislature and signed by Governor Gavin Newsom last Fall that mandates gathering sexual orientation and gender identity data related to the COVID testing in California.

“We’re one year into the pandemic, and LGBTQ people continue to be erased in our public health response to COVID-19 — similar to our invisibility throughout history. No government is successfully tracking COVID-19 cases in the LGBTQ community, despite a law I wrote mandating that California do so,” Weiner told the Blade. “And, we now know that LGBTQ people are more vulnerable to COVID-19. We’ve also just learned that vaccination demographic data doesn’t include LGBTQ data. It simply shocking that in 2021, progressive health agencies continue to forget about our community,” he added.

The CDC also noted that gay and lesbian adults were more likely to be concerned about COVID-19 and to believe in the safety and efficacy of vaccines.

“We know that the prevalence of certain health conditions associated with severe COVID-19 illness, such as cancer, smoking, and obesity, are higher in LGBT populations, and access to health care continues to be an issue for some people in the LGBT community,” Dr. A.D. McNaghten, a member of the CDC’s COVID-19 Emergency Response Team and corresponding author of the study, told ABC News. “We wanted to see if vaccination coverage among LGBT persons was the same as non-LGBT persons.”

The CDC data recorded that bisexual and transgender adults had similar vaccination rates to heterosexual adults with 72.6% of bisexual adults fully vaccinated by the end of October, as were 71.4% of transgender adults. The numbers however for Black and Hispanic lesbian women had lower rates of vaccination at 57.9% and 72.6%, respectively, compared to Black and Hispanic heterosexual women at 75.6% and 80.5%, respectively.

Higher percentages of gay or lesbian adults and bisexual adults reported that they thought COVID-19 vaccine was very or somewhat important to protect oneself (90.8% and 86.8%, respectively) compared with heterosexual adults (80.4%), and higher percentages of adults who identified as transgender or nonbinary reported they thought COVID-19 vaccine was very or somewhat important to protect oneself (83.2%) compared with those who did not identify as transgender or nonbinary (80.7%).

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Coronavirus

White House orders distribution of 400 million free N95 masks

Dr. Tom Inglesby, the administration’s Covid testing coordinator; “We know that these masks provide better protection than cloth masks”

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President Joe Biden (Blade file photo/screenshot)

WASHINGTON – As the latest surge of the highly contagious and easily transmissible Omicron variant of the coronavirus continues to cause a rise in hospitalizations, especially among unvaccinated adults and children, the White House announced Wednesday it is making 400 million N95 masks available for free at thousands of locations across the nation.

The plan an admkistartion official said, is to start shipping the nonsurgical masks to pharmacies and community health centers to distribute this week, which will come from the Strategic National Stockpile.

In an interview with NBC News, Dr. Tom Inglesby, the administration’s Covid testing coordinator, said, “We know that these masks provide better protection than cloth masks.”

The N95 masks will be made available to everybody, and recipients will not be prioritized based on vulnerability to Covid, income or other criteria. Inglesby said the administration was “confident that people who want to access them will be able to access them,” but it was not immediately clear how many masks a person could receive at one time.

On January 13, President Joe Biden had announced a plan to have the government distribute 1 billion rapid, at-home COVID-19 tests free to Americans, along with the N95 masks, as the administration works to fight the spiraling upward spike in coronavirus cases.

The White House website to order free at-home Covid tests went live Tuesday. The website says: “Every home in the U.S. is eligible to order 4 free at-home COVID-19 tests. The tests are completely free. Orders will usually ship in 7-12 days.”

A White House official said Wednesday that the distribution of 400 million masks would be the largest deployment of personal protective equipment in U.S. history.

Inglesby told NBC News that the administration was “absolutely preparing for the possibility of additional variants in the future” and that people could expect the government to make N95 masks “more and more available.”

Biden announces free masks, tests to fight omicron:

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