Winter in Los Angeles means cold nights, Santa Anas, a traffic crush around malls and, for the past few years, a surge in Covid cases.
Over the past two weeks, the 7-day average test positivity in L.A. County has grown more than 100%, from 6.5% the Wednesday before last to 14.7% today, public health officials reported. Daily case numbers have fluctuated, with 3,077 new infections reported last Wednesday and 2,370 today. Either way, county officials say, those numbers are an undercount given the underreporting of at-home test results.
But the number that officials really watch is hospitalizations. When hospitals overflow, deaths increase markedly. Even as case numbers and test positivity have risen sharply throughout November, hospitalizations have lagged. No more.
The number of county residents hospitalized with Covid hit 822 last Wednesday, according to the latest state figures. That’s up from 666 one week before, marking a 23% increase in seven days. Today, the number of Covid-related hospitalizations topped 1,000 for the first time since the end of the summer wave in mid-August. Today’s numbers showed 1,040 such patients, marking a 56% increase in the past two weeks.
Official data indicates 122 of those patients are being treated in intensive care, an increase from 96 ICU patients on Thursday.
The hospitalization numbers are still low compared to previous surges. This past summer, Covid hospitalizations hit a high of 1,329 on July 20. On January 17 of this year, total patients hospitalized with Covid hit a whopping 4,564. The all-pandemic high came on January 7, 2021 with 7,966.
One thing to observe is that both of those peaks came in mid-ish January, two to three weeks after the winter holidays. We’re still five-plus weeks away from mid-ish January 2023, and for comparison, the number of patients hospitalized with Covid at this point in 2022 is far above where it was on November 30, 2021, which was 574 patients.
Health officials have been also warning not only about a possible Covid surge this winter, but also of jumps in flu and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, cases which could prompt a so-called “tripledemic” where the trio of illnesses overwhelm healthcare facilities.
Two weeks ago, L.A. County Public Health office Dr. Muntu Davis reported “high levels of flu activity for this time of year” and “steep increases in flu positivity.” On November 17, flu test positivity was 15%, up from 8% the week prior. Davis also said that “levels of RSV are already higher than the peaks of the past few seasons.”
The greatest concern is for the supply of pediatric hospital and ICU beds, since the flu and RSV can hit children harder. On November 17, the county’s pediatric hospital beds occupancy stood at 64%. Ped ICVU bed usage was the highest it’s been in past 17 months, between 64% and 75%.
City News Service contributed to this report.