In the hottest part of summer, Los Angeles experienced if not a surge in COVID-19 infections, then at least a moderate rise.
That has ended. This week the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health reported a seven-day daily average of 382 new cases. That is down from 475 last week.
It also marks a 33% decrease from the recent peak of 571 average cases, recorded on Aug. 30 (numbers are an undercount, as many infections detected with at-home tests are never reported to health authorities).
The decline in cases is complemented by a downturn in hospitalizations. For nine consecutive weeks, the number of people receiving high-level medical care in the region had increased, more than doubling from a summer low of 213 hospitalizations.
Now, after reaching 620 hospitalizations, the level has dipped for two consecutive weeks. As of Sept. 27, 542 COVID-19 patients were in area hospitals, according to the Department of Public Health.
The downturn occurs as an updated COVID-19 vaccine is being rolled out. The newest version, available from Moderna and Pfizer, is designed to protect against an Omicron variant.
Taking a shot
On Wednesday, County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer said that distribution hurdles have temporarily limited the vaccine supply, but that ultimately doses will be available at more than a thousand locations across the county. That will include some 400 sites where people who are uninsured or under-insured can get shots for free.
Ferrer said those who have health insurance should be able to receive a shot with no out-of-pocket cost, though they may need to contact their health provider to identify where that can happen.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that everyone 6 months and up receive at least one dose of the new vaccine.
“These vaccines remain a very powerful tool that can help reduce the risks associated with COVID-19, especially as we enter into the fall-winter respiratory season,” Ferrer said during an event at Ted Watkins Memorial Park in South Los Angeles, one of the county-run locations where shots are available.
In Los Angeles County, approximately 21.9 million doses have been administered since vaccines first became available. However, more than 90% of the inoculations were the original version.
Ferrer said the new doses help as there is “waning protection” for people who previously were vaccinated or gained some immunity after contracting COVID-19.
“Over time that [protection] diminishes and that’s why we talk about getting an annual flu shot or an annual COVID vaccine,” she said.
She added that the new dose can also help protect against long COVID.
The U.S. government this week reintroduced a program that provides four free COVID-19 tests to every household. They can be ordered through the U.S. Postal Service.
How we did it: We analyzed coronavirus data through Sept. 27, 2023, related to new cases, deaths, hospitalizations and vaccinations provided by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. The data only reflects cases reported to the department, and not how many cases actually occurred.