5 things to know about COVID-19 this week

Cases fall and hospitalizations are stable, but deaths are spiking in Los Angeles

Blue illustration of a sneezing girl with mouse ears


The coronavirus situation is constantly changing. That’s why every week Crosstown reports on the latest COVID-19 metrics in Los Angeles County. Here is what we know.


1) Fall, rise, repeat

Remember a few weeks ago when it seemed like another surge was coming? In the first week of December, average cases climbed to nearly 4,000 a day. Rumors of a new mask mandate were circulating.


But just as quickly, the situation has improved. From Dec. 14–20, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health reported 19,653 cases, marking a 10.8% decrease from one week prior. The peak in the past week was the 4,211 cases identified on Dec. 14.


Bar chart of COVID-19 infections


On Dec. 20, the seven-day average for cases in Los Angeles County stood at 2,808. This is 3.6% higher than on Dec. 1.


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2) Hospitalizations level off

While cases are ticking downward, COVID-19-related hospitalizations are stagnant.


Line chart of coronavirus hospitalizations


On Dec. 20, there were 1,251 patients in area medical institutions. This marks a moderate 7.4% increase from the beginning of the month.


The stabilization is a good thing, because a sharp increase in flu and RSV cases is putting significant strain on the local healthcare system. On Dec. 16 the Department of Public Health said, “The average number of available beds so far in December is the lowest number reported in the past four years.”


Line chart comparing COVID-19 cases in November 2022 and November 2021.


3) Further fatalities

Although cases are declining and hospitalizations have plateaued, the number of fatalities due to COVID-19 is rising. While this is distressing, it is not surprising, as deaths are often a lagging indicator, increasing about a month after an uptick in cases. A potential silver lining is that, as mentioned above, past surges have been far more severe.


Bar chart of COVID-19 fatalities


On Dec. 20, the seven-day average was 20 deaths per day, a level not seen since mid-March. At the beginning of the month, the average stood at eight. Fatalities peaked at 22 on Dec. 15.


4) Catching a (winter) break

Schools have closed for winter break. So how did COVID-19, which interrupted in-class learning for more than a year, impact the local education scene this semester?


Perhaps the best indicator is assessing the situation at Los Angeles Unified School District campuses—more than 420,000 students attend over 1,100 schools. As of Dec. 19, there had been 1,685 positive cases among students and staff, according to a district dashboard. Fourteen of these cases were attributed to school-based transmission. 


These are only the cases that are confirmed by the schools, and the actual numbers are likely higher. As with the population in general, many at-home positive COVID-19 tests among students and staff may never be publicly reported.


At the close of the semester, the district sent students home with COVID-19 tests. An email to parents last week stated, “Students are encouraged to take a rapid antigen test on January 7-8 and January 15-16.”


5) County comparison

The state of California reports the number of vaccinations administered by county, providing insight into how Angelenos compare with other residents.


According to the dashboard, 72.4% of Californians have completed their “primary series,” the term for receiving a first and second dose. Los Angeles County ranks 13th out of 58 counties in the state, with 73.8% of residents fully vaccinated.


The higher-ranking counties are along the central and northern coast. In San Francisco, 84.7% of people have been fully vaccinated. Meanwhile, many counties in rural areas have far less protection. Mariposa County has a 52.4% primary series vaccination rate.


A complicating factor is that fully vaccinated no longer means what it once did, and health leaders continue to urge everyone to get a bivalent booster. The uptake has been slow. In Los Angeles, 19% of those who are eligible got the latest shot. Statewide the figure is 20.5%.


How we did it: We analyzed coronavirus data related to new cases, deaths, hospitalizations and vaccinations provided by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, as well as data from the California Department of Public Health.


Interested in our data? Check out the Crosstown coronavirus interactive map or email askus@xtown.la.