The fifth wave of COVID-19 in Los Angeles may prove to be the most infectious yet. The test positivity rate has more than tripled in a week, and on Wednesday the county recorded over 16,000 new coronavirus cases. Health officials have suggested that while the Omicron variant is drawing much of the public’s attention, the Delta strain remains in play.
There is hope that even if Omicron is more transmissible, it causes symptoms that are milder than previous variants. Indeed, news reports say that in South Africa, where Omicron was first detected, there have been relatively few deaths and caseloads are rapidly decreasing. Still, an increase in new hospitalizations in Los Angeles County is raising concern.
The Crosstown COVID Tracker helps you stay up to date on the latest and most important data on infections, inoculations and general risk.
Behold the surge
The spike in cases has been startling. The 1,718 new cases on Dec. 8 was just 10.5% of the 16,510 recorded three weeks later. On Wednesday, the seven-day average of new cases was 10,407, a 183.5% increase from the seven-day case average a week ago.
Monthly coronavirus cases in Los Angeles County, July-December 2021
Figures are now comparable to last winter, when the original coronavirus strain and cool temperatures that forced people indoors led to a wave of illness and death (this was before widespread vaccinations began). On Dec. 29, 2020, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health reported a seven-day case average of 16,120.
The positivity rate is also spiking. On Wednesday it hit 17.6%, the highest level since January. Two weeks ago, it was just 1.7%.
On Dec. 28, 2020, the test positivity rate was 19.2%
Deaths remain relatively low, with a seven-day average on Wednesday of 16. In the final three days of 2020, there were more than 200 daily deaths.
COVID-19 hospitalizations in Los Angeles County, 2021 vs. 2020
Hospitalizations are nowhere near the high of more than 8,000 seen early this year. However, on Wednesday the county recorded 1,069 COVID-19 patients being treated in area hospitals, the highest level since Sept. 21. This marks an 88.2% increase from a month ago.
The worsening numbers have prompted a new round of urgent calls for everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated and boosted. Through Dec. 26, the most recent day for which data was available, just under 16 million shots had gone into arms in L.A. County, with 6.2 million of those being second doses. More than 2.2 million booster shots have been administered.
Senior citizens in Los Angeles County continue to be highly protected. According to the Public Health department, 97.4% of area residents 65 and up have received at least one dose, and 89% are fully vaccinated.
Of the 8.2 million county inhabitants who are 12 and older, 84.5% have received at least one dose, and 76% are fully vaccinated.
How we did it: We analyzed coronavirus data related to new cases, deaths, hospitalization and vaccinations data provided by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.