Cases: Los Angeles County reported 66 deaths associated with the coronavirus Saturday, the most reported in one day since April 2. The majority of deaths reported last week occurred in people who became infected after Dec. 20, when the omicron variant was circulating widely, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
The county also reported 41,765 new coronavirus cases and said “the extraordinarily high number of new cases reflects worrisome rates of community transmission.”
The number of coronavirusinfected patients in Los Angeles County hospitals increased to 4,386, up from 4,257 on Friday. The number of those patients in intensive care units rose to 602, up two from Friday’s total. Many coronavirus patients entered the hospital for other reasons and only discovered they were infected with the virus after a mandated test, but the surging numbers are putting a strain on hospitals nonetheless, with many nurses and other staffers unavailable themselves due to the pandemic.
As of Friday, more than 80% of all adult ICU beds in the county were occupied.
Overall, coronavirus patient numbers are still well below those seen last winter, when the number topped 8,000.
A city spokesperson reported Thursday the 7-day average of new confirmed COVID-19 cases in Pasadena residents continues to rise and now has reached 390.7 cases per day.
That rise was boosted in part by the addition of 534 confirmed and 12 probable cases recorded on Wednesday.
Huntington Hospital also fell behind and posted no new information Thursday. The last report issued by the hospital showed it was treating 107 Covid-19-positive patients, of whom 64% were unvaccinated.
The number of COVID-positive patients across all Los Angeles County hospitals topped the 4,000 mark, according to the latest data, as the highly contagious Omicron variant continued to fuel a winter surge in infections.
According to state figures, there were 4,175 COVID-19-positive patients in county hospitals as of Thursday, with 586 of them being treated in intensive care. That’s up from 3,912 total patients and 536 in the ICU on Wednesday.
The county’s hospital number is the highest it has been since early February 2021.
County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Thursday the rise in COVID patients is pushing the county’s overall hospital patient population to levels rivaling those during last winter’s case surge. She said the daily overall patient census — both COVID and non-COVID — is about 15,000 in the county, close to last winter’s peak of 16,500.
She also noted that rising hospitalizations are a natural consequence of rising case numbers, as are deaths, which are likely to keep increasing, even after infection figures begin declining.
On Thursday, the county reported 45 new COVID-related deaths, continuing a disturbing upward trend. A total of 39 deaths were reported Wednesday, the highest number since September. All of the deaths reported Wednesday occurred this month, likely reflecting an increase associated with the higher December case and hospitalization numbers.
The county also continued seeing disturbingly high numbers of new infections, with 45,076 new cases reported Thursday.
To date, the county has reported 27,895 COVID-related deaths and 2,131,523 cases since the pandemic began.
Thursday’s rolling daily rate of people testing positive for the virus was 20.8%.
Ferrer again urged residents to avoid dangerous activities in the coming weeks, particularly those that are indoors and involve mingling with unvaccinated or higher-risk people. She also stressed that while the Omicron variant is easily capable of infecting vaccinated people, the shots are still proving to be effective in preventing infected people from winding up hospitalized.
She called on residents to get vaccinated and obtain booster shots; wear upgraded masks such as N95, KN95 or KF94 varieties; and get tested, saying the county dramatically expanded testing availability after shortages two weeks ago that led to long lines at some test centers.
As of Sunday, 80% of eligible county residents aged 5 and up have received at least one vaccine dose, and 72% are fully vaccinated. Of the county’s overall population of 10.3 million people, 76% have one dose, and 68% are fully vaccinated.
As Pasadena continues to confront a dramatic surge in COVID-19 cases, on Tuesday the Huntington Hospital reported it now has more than 100 coronavirus-infected patients, the city issued a new masking order, and the County’s health director urged a slow-down or postponement of non-essential public activities.
The hospital reported that of its total 101 patients who have coronavirus, 14 were in the ICU. 86 percent of ICU COVID-19 patients were unvaccinated. Among all the COVID-19 patients at the hospital, 66 percent were unvaccinated.
A city spokesperson said Tuesday that Pasadena is now posting a 7-day average of 390.7 new COVID-19 cases daily. She also reported there were 288 confirmed cases and 27 probable cases reported on Sunday.
From the New York Times: At another bleak moment of the pandemic in the United States — with nearly 800,000 new cases a day, deaths rising and federal medical teams deploying to overwhelmed hospitals — glints of progress have finally started to emerge. In a handful of places that were among the first to see a surge of the Omicron variant last month, reports of new coronavirus infections have started to level off or decline.
Daily case reports have been falling rapidly around Cleveland, Newark and Washington, D.C., each of which sustained record-shattering spikes over the past month. There were also early signs in Chicago, New York, Puerto Rico and hard-hit ski resort towns in Colorado that cases were hitting a plateau or starting to drop.
The slowing of the spread in those places was welcome news, raising the prospect that a national peak in the Omicron wave may be approaching. But most of the country continued to see explosive growth in virus cases, with some Western and Southern states reporting 400 percent increases over the past two weeks. Officials also warned that hospitalizations and deaths lag actual infections, meaning that even in places where new cases have begun declining, it would still be weeks before the full impact of Omicron was known.
Two months after the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine was authorized for children age 5 to 11, just 27% have received at least one shot, according to data Wednesday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Only 18%, or 5 million children, have received both doses.
The national effort to vaccinate children has stalled even as the omicron variant upends schooling for millions of students and their families, causing staffing shortages, shutdowns and heated battles over how to safely operate. Vaccination rates vary substantially across the country, a Kaiser Health News analysis of the federal data shows. Nearly half of Vermont’s 5- to 11-year-olds are fully vaccinated, for example, while fewer than 10% have gotten both shots in nine mostly Southern states.
In California, 32.5% of children 5 to 11 had received at least one dose and 21.2% were fully vaccinated, though inoculation rates also fluctuate from county to county.
Pediatricians say the slow pace and geographic disparities are alarming, especially against the backdrop of record numbers of cases and pediatric hospitalizations. School-based vaccine mandates for students, which some pediatricians say are needed to boost rates substantially, remain virtually nonexistent.
Meanwhile on Tuesday the Pasadena Public Health Dept. issued an anticipated new health order.
The order directs all employers in Pasadena to provide their employees who work indoors and in close contact with other workers or the public with upgraded face masks and to require them to wear the masks at all times while indoors at work.
The City had said last week it would be issuing the order, which is similar to a mask order issued by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health last week.
Pasadena’s order will take effect on Jan. 17, the same day as the County order.
Also on Tuesday, County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer told County Supervisors at their meeting that residents should avoid non-essential activities in the coming weeks, particularly those that are indoors and involve mingling with unvaccinated or higher-risk people.
Fueled by the Omicron variant of COVID-19, the county is experiencing pandemic-high levels of daily infection reports and the highest rate of virus transmission to date. The county on Tuesday reported 34,827 new infections, along with 15 more deaths.
The reality is that parties and events — especially those indoors with unvaccinated individuals or those at high risk for severe illness — make it very easy for this virus to spread. Limiting our time with others to those more essential work-related or school-related activities is a prudent action for everyone to take whenever possible.
Her comments came as state figures showed the number of COVID-positive patients in county hospitals rising to 3,766, up from 3,472 on Monday. The number of those patients in intensive care rose to 513, up from 482 a day earlier.
Dr. Christina Ghaly, the county’s health services director, said that despite rising patient numbers, the Omicron-fueled surge is playing out differently in hospitals than earlier surges. She said last fall, about one-third of COVID patients wound up in ICU care, but that number is only about 10% to 15% this time around, at least in the four county-operated hospitals, which likely reflect conditions in other medical centers.
She also said that about 40% of COVID-positive patients at the county hospitals were admitted specifically because of the virus, while the rest only learned they were infected upon admission for something else. During the last surge, 80% to 90% of the COVID patients were admitted due to virus-related illness.
Ghaly said that despite the changes and numbers that still dwarf last winter’s surge — when more than 8,000 COVID patients were hospitalized — current staffing shortages are creating more critical conditions at hospitals. She pointed to large number of healthcare workers who have retired or moved into non-front-line positions. She also noted that the surge in COVID infections has also impacted healthcare workers, leaving many unavailable to work due to illness or exposure.
The situation has also led to longer ambulance response times, in part due to large numbers of workers at private ambulance companies who have failed to meet COVID vaccination requirements, leaving them unable to work, combined with a high amount of people calling in sick.
The time it takes for ambulance crews to off-load patients at hospitals has also risen, she said, thanks to staffing and space issues. Ghaly said three area hospitals — Mission Community Hospital in Panorama City, Little Company of Mary in San Pedro and Antelope Valley Hospital — have all established surge units to help handle the increase in patients.
Ferrer again stressed that while the Omicron variant is easily capable of infecting vaccinated people, the shots are still proving to be effective in preventing infected people from winding up hospitalized.
She said unvaccinated people are nine times more likely to be hospitalized than fully vaccinated people, and 38 times more likely to be hospitalized than people who are fully vaccinated and received a booster shot.
The 34,827 new COVID cases announced Tuesday brought the county’s cumulative total to 2,046,208 since the pandemic began. The 15 deaths gave the county an overall death toll of 27,812.
Health officials have said previously that about 90% of people who died from COVID-19 had underlying health conditions. Of the 13 deaths reported Monday, nine had underlying conditions, according to the county Department of Public Health.
The county’s rolling average rate of people testing positive for the virus was 21% as of Tuesday, down slightly from 21.4% on Monday, and up from 20.6% Sunday and 20.9% Saturday. The rate was less than 1% in November.
According to county figures released last week, of the more than 6.4 million fully vaccinated people in the county, 199,314 have tested positive for the virus, for a rate of 3.1%, while 3,348 have been hospitalized, for a rate of 0.05%. A total of 625 fully vaccinated people have died, for a rate of 0.01%.
Ferrer said Tuesday that as of Jan. 6, 80% of eligible county residents aged 5 and older have received at least one dose of vaccine, while 71% are fully vaccinated. Of the county’s overall population of 10.3 million people, 76% have received at least one dose, and 68% are fully vaccinated.
The Economy: Inflation’s hit to a Southern Californian’s checkbook hasn’t been this hard in 31 years, a time when
“Home Alone” was a blockbuster hit and George H. W. Bush was president.
Consumer prices in Los Angeles and Orange counties rose at a 6.6% annual rate in December, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Everything from gasoline and household fuels to used cars and appliances and even recreation got really expensive. Inflation has risen a long way from 1.5% in December 2020.
These cost jumps are by no means just a local phenomenon. Nationwide inflation hit 7% in December, the highest rate since 1981. In Phoenix, inflation was 9.7%, and in Seattle 7.6%. The Bay Area’s cost of living was relatively mild, up only 4.2%. Inland Empire inflation, measured back in November, was 7.9%.
A curious mix of pandemic forces is powering this inflationary rush. The economy is struggling to deal with persistent coronavirus strains, which has led to shortages of workers and raw materials. Shoppers are weathering thinly stocked shelves and delivery delays due to supply chain challenges.
On the flip side, demand for goods and services has soared because consumers are flush with cash. Hiring sprees are pushing up wages. Government stimulus programs sent taxpayer checks and cut interest rates, in turn, boosting the values of stocks and real estate.
Warning that high inflation could make it harder to restore the job market to full health, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said Tuesday that the Fed will raise interest rates faster than it now plans if needed to stem surging prices.
With America’s households squeezed by higher costs for food, gas, rent, autos and many other items, the Fed is under pressure to rein in inflation by raising rates to slow borrowing and spending. At the same time, the economy has recovered enough that the Fed’s ultra-low-interest rate policies are no longer needed.
The stark challenge for Powell if he is confirmed for a new term, as expected, was underscored by the questions he faced Tuesday from both Democratic and Republican senators. They pressed him to raise rates to reduce inflation, though without ramping up borrowing costs so much that the economy tumbles into a recession.
Fed officials have forecast three increases in their benchmark short-term rate this year, though some economists say they envision as many as four hikes in 2022.
Powell’s nomination is expected to be approved by the committee sometime in the coming weeks and then confirmed by the full Senate with bipartisan support. At Tuesday’s hearing, he drew mostly supportive comments from senators from both parties. A Republican first elevated to the chair by President Donald Trump, Powell has also been credited by many Democrats for sticking with ultralow- rate policies to support rapid hiring for the past 18 months.
In his testimony, Powell rebuffed suggestions from some Democratic senators that rate increases would weaken hiring and potentially leave many people, particularly lower-income and Black Americans, without jobs. Fed rate increases usually boost borrowing costs on many consumer and business loans and have the effect of slowing the economy.
But Powell argued that rising inflation, if it persists, also poses a threat the Fed’s goal of getting nearly everyone wants a job back to work. Low-income families have been particularly hurt by the surge in inflation, which has wiped out the pay increases that many have received.
The economy, the Fed chair added, must grow for an extended period to put as many Americans back to work as possible. Controlling inflation before it becomes entrenched is necessary to keep the economy expanding, he said. If prices keep rising, the Fed could be forced to slam on the brakes much harder by sharply raising interest rates, threatening hiring and growth.
Inflation has soared to the highest levels in four decades, and on Wednesday the government is expected to report that consumer prices jumped 7.1% over the past 12 months, which would be the largest such jump since 1982.
Powell said the Fed mistakenly expected that supply chain bottlenecks driving up prices for goods such as cars, appliances, and furniture would not last nearly as long as they have. Once unsnarled, prices for things like used cars, which have spiked in the past year, would come back down, he said. But for now, those supply chain problems have persisted, and while there are signs they are loosening, Powell said that progress is limited. He noted that many cargo ships remain docked outside the port of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the nation’s largest, waiting to unload.