Los Angeles County is experiencing a “staggeringly fast rise” in newly confirmed coronavirus cases, with more than 6,500 additional infections reported Wednesday alone, according to a top health official.
The latest caseload, 6,509, is more than double the total reported Tuesday.
“We’re headed into a very challenging time over the holiday,” county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer told reporters. “If our case numbers continue to increase at a rapid pace over this week and next, we could be looking at case numbers we’ve never seen before.”
The massive increase, she said, reflects increased circulation of the Omicron variant — which has spread rapidly since its presence was first confirmed in California three weeks ago.
“The reality is that the vast majority of folks testing positive today are infected with Omicron, a more easily transmitted strain of the virus,” Ferrer said.
She added, though, that it’s unvaccinated residents who remain particularly exposed to the worst effects of COVID-19. From Dec. 5 to 11, unvaccinated Angelenos were five times likelier to get infected, 21 times more likely to require hospitalization and 18 times likelier to die.
So far, COVID-19 hospitalizations have not yet spiked to the same alarming degree as cases. However, the number of coronavirus-positive patients countywide is already rising.
The county’s daily patient census on Tuesday, 770, represents a 35% increase since the start of the month.
More concerning still is that it typically takes about two weeks for increases in case counts to trigger corresponding spikes in the number of people requiring professional healthcare. In other words, the recent rise in hospitalizations doesn’t yet reflect the stunning rise in cases.
“This staggeringly fast rise, and the healthcare system strain that has followed similarly steep increases elsewhere in the world is the cause of our alarm,” Ferrer said.