On Monday, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health officials confirmed five new cases of B.1.1.7, also known as the U.K. coronavirus variant, along with 93 new deaths and 2,741 cases of COVID-19, though the low numbers may reflect reporting delays over the weekend.
Despite improving measures, the number of people dying from COVID-19 remains high. On Sunday, Los Angeles County surpassed 18,000 COVID-19 deaths. The county has experienced more than 1,000 new COVID-19 deaths since Feb. 2.
The average number of daily cases and current hospitalizations is, however, decreasing. The seven-day average number of daily cases peaked on Jan. 8 with more than 15,000 cases and has now dropped by 77% to less than 5,000 a day. There are 4,186 people with COVID-19 currently hospitalized and 29% of these people are in the I.C.U. As of Feb. 5, there were 4,608 average daily hospitalizations; a decrease of 45% from the peak of 8,065 average daily hospitalizations in early-January.
Though the county is doing better, officials worry about the presence of spread of variants. County health officials have not seen clusters of the U.K. variant like the ones identified in San Diego County, but Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer warns that it’s likely that other strains are circulating, including the South African strain that has raised questions about the efficacy of current vaccines.
“We haven’t seen the South Africa variant in any of the sequencing that we’ve done, but that doesn’t mean it’s not here,” she said. “Which is why we’re just saying to everyone, ‘Assume it’s here.'”
Ferrer also said that the more infections present in the community, the easier it becomes for people to become infected. “The variants are concerning, because if we let our guard down, the more infectious strains can become dominant,” she explained. “And that just makes it a lot easier for this virus to spread.”
As the President’s Day holiday approaches, officials reminded residents that a travel advisory remains in effect in L.A. County. The advisory discourages travel 120 miles outside the county and orders arriving travelers to self-quarantine for 10 days.
“Our progress can easily be undone, and it takes less than 15 minutes of exposure to someone with COVID for someone to get sick themselves,” said L.A. County Board of Supervisors Chair Hilda Solis.