County reports huge increase in new virus cases

by Steven Felschundneff |

Any hope that Los Angeles County, with its relatively high vaccination rate, would avoid another winter surge vanished on Wednesday when the county reported a 100% increase in new cases in a single day.

Public health recorded 6,509 new coronavirus cases and a positivity rate of 4.5%, the highest in months. One week ago the positivity rate, which is the most accurate gauge of the local outbreak, was 1.9%.

The sharp rise in new cases is consistent with outbreaks observed around the world of the new Omicron variant which is highly contagious and spreads quickly. The good news is that Omicron outbreaks appear to recede just as quickly as they initially spread, according to the Washington Post, which reported this week that the surge in South Africa was in rapid decline.

For now the increase in cases has yet to result in a similar increase in hospitalizations or deaths, however, it may be just too early to tell. The county reported a moderate increase in hospitalizations since the first case of the Omicron variant was detected December 1, from 574 to 748. There were 16 deaths in the county on Wednesday which is down somewhat from a week earlier, although it can take weeks to succumb to the virus, so that is considered a lagging indicator.

The new variant also appears to result in a large number of breakthrough cases, in which fully-vaccinated individuals become infected. However, the vaccine does appear to be effective in preventing severe cases and death. On Wednesday the county reported that people who have received the booster shot had 20 times the amount of protection from infection compared with unvaccinated individuals, while those fully vaccinated but without the booster were just four times less likely to become infected.

The county is reporting 112 new infections in Claremont since December 10, the last time the COURIER published a virus report, for a cumulative total of 3,232 cases. Fortunately there are no new deaths and the total stands at 70.


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