Infection Rates: Pasadena reported 107 new cases of COFID-19 on Friday, June 30th and no new fatalities.
Just days after reporting a slowdown in the pace of COVID-19-positive residents being hospitalized, the county’s public health director announced on Thursday, a sharp upturn in admissions, increasing the likelihood of a return to an indoor mask-wearing mandate by late July.
On Tuesday, Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer told the Board of Supervisors the average daily rate of new COVID-19 admissions to hospitals in the county had fallen to 6.6 per 100,000 residents, down from 7.3 per 100,000 a week earlier. But on Thursday, Ferrer said that number has jumped to 8.1 per 100,000.
If the county reaches 10 new daily admissions per 100,000 residents, it will move into the “high” virus activity category as defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If the county stays in the “high” category for two consecutive weeks, it will reimpose a mandatory indoor mask-wearing mandate.
At the current rate of increase, the county will hit the “high” category by July 19, Ferrer said. That projection has changed repeatedly in the past few weeks as the admission rate has fluctuated, and Ferrer said it could shift again.
She noted, however, that given the continued high level of virus transmission in the county — particularly with more rapid spread of the highly transmissible BA.4 and BA.5 variants — people should already be masking up indoors.
Because masks are not mandatory, “people are not, I think, heeding our request that people do put those masks back on indoors right now.”
She said the evidence is “crystal clear” that masking, particularly with a higher-grade N95 or KN95 mask, works to prevent spread of the virus.
She urged employers to implement infection-control measures at indoor worksites, such as masking and maintaining physical distancing in communal areas. She noted that one sector in particular — the TV and film industry — has already re-imposed an indoor mask mandate now that the county’s hospitalization rate has reached more than 8 per 100,000 residents.
As of Thursday, there were 808 COVID-19-positive patients in county hospitals, up from 779 on Wednesday, according to state figures. Of those patients, 74 were being treated in intensive care, down from 77 a day earlier.
The county reported 5,763 new coronavirus cases Thursday, raising the cumulative total from throughout the pandemic to 3,118,053. Nine more deaths were also reported, lifting the virus-related death toll to 32,334.
The average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus rose to 13.8%.
This is really catching- New Omicron strains’ ability to reinfect raises concerns of wider spread, illness. By Luke Money and Rong-Gong Lin II for the LA Times:
The growing dominance of two new ultra-contagious Omicron subvariants is prolonging a wave of coronavirus cases in California and sparking growing concerns from health officials that coming weeks could see significant spread and increased hospitalizations.
BA.4 and BA.5 are now believed to be responsible for most new infections nationwide. The strains are of particular concern because they are not only especially contagious but are also capable of reinfecting those who have survived earlier Omicron infections.
When it comes to BA.4 and BA.5, their “superpower is reinfection,” said Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, a UC San Francisco infectious-disease expert.
Additionally, “there’s strong evidence they can spread even faster than other subvariants,” said Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer
Though coronavirus reinfections have been possible throughout the pandemic, the risk has heightened of late.
From early December, when Omicron’s presence was first detected in California, through the end of February, the state reported an average of about 14,325 people who were newly reinfected with the coronavirus per week, according to data from the California Department of Public Health.
That figure then receded along with the initial Omicron wave, with an average of 2,315 weekly reinfections reported from early March through early May.
But the metric has since shot up — with 10,409 weekly reinfections reported from mid-May to mid-June. That timeline roughly corresponds with when BA.4 and BA.5 started to circulate more widely.
According to the latest figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, BA.4 and BA.5 accounted for an estimated 52.3% of cases for the weeklong period that ended June 25. That’s the first time the two have represented a combined majority of estimated cases nationwide.
The previous week, the subvariants made up an estimated 37.4% of cases. The proportions are similar in the southwestern U.S., which includes California, Arizona, Nevada, Hawaii and U.S. Pacific territories.
Though the ultimate repercussions of the two strains remain to be seen, their apparent ability to reinfect people threatens to weaken one of the few guardrails for a pandemic-weary populace.
Previous waves have subsided because the coronavirus hit a wall, stalling when enough people were vaccinated, had been infected or were altering their behavior to an extent that the virus was deprived of vulnerable hosts.
But in a world dominated by BA.4 and BA.5, those who have been infected with the coronavirus — even as recently as a few weeks ago — may not be adequately shielded.
The shifting subvariant dynamic may help explain why the coronavirus is still transmitting at high levels across California, quashing hopes that the pandemic is over.
As of data released Friday, California has recorded a 12% increase in coronavirus cases compared with mid-June, tallying an average of more than 16,900 per day over the last week, according to data compiled by The Times. On a per capita basis, that’s 303 cases a week for every 100,000 residents.
A rate of 100 or more cases a week for every 100,000 residents is considered a high rate of transmission
Los Angeles County is reporting nearly 5,300 cases a day, for a weekly rate of 367 cases per 100,000 residents. That’s the highest case rate since early February and represents a 20% week-over-week increase in cases, erasing improvements in the case rate recorded in mid-June.
That still-potent spread can be chalked up to several factors, including residents who have largely abandoned infection-prevention measures and returned to pre-pandemic habits, the emergence of ever-more-contagious strains and the waning of virus immunity.
It was comparatively easier to avoid last summer’s Delta variant or even the first Omicron strain that struck after Thanksgiving than the more transmissible editions of Omicron that have emerged since.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Biden’s chief medical adviser, first tested positive for the coronavirus 2½ weeks ago. Xavier Becerra, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, tested positive in Sacramento in mid-June — about 3½ weeks after initially testing positive while visiting Berlin.
Any infection — whether it’s the first or a repeat occurrence — still poses potential health problems. Though much has been said about Omicron’s comparatively milder nature, it can still pack a punch.
Even if hospitalization is not required, COVID-19 can still cause miserable symptoms. And long COVID, in which ailments such as fatigue, brain fog or difficulty breathing can persist for months or years, remains a risk after every infection, though it is probably reduced by getting up-to-date on vaccinations.
As to whether BA.4 or BA.5 causes more serious illness than other members of the Omicron family, the jury is still out.
Though the World Health Organization noted recently that current available evidence doesn’t indicate a change in disease severity associated with either, the agency also said their growing prevalence “has coincided with a rise in cases” in several regions, with those increases leading to a surge in hospitalizations in some countries.
There have been reports that a wave fueled by BA.4 and BA.5 in South Africa was associated with somewhat lower death rates than its first Omicron waves, Ferrer said. But, again in Portugal, “the increase in BA.4 and BA.5 appears to be associated with a death rate that’s pretty similar” to its first Omicron wave, she said.
It wouldn’t be a surprise if the ability of existing vaccinations to protect against severe disease erodes when tested against BA.5, Topol said. After all, the vaccines plus a booster resulted in a 95% protection against severe disease caused by the Delta variant, but that was lowered to 80% when tested against the early Omicron variants BA.1 and BA.2, he said.
One major question is whether the potential rollout of an Omicron-specific booster later this year will help. Given how much the variant has mutated in the last seven months, there are concerns such an offering may be relatively outdated by the time it’s available.
It’s ever more important, Topol said, to accelerate work on a new generation of vaccines, such as a nasal vaccine intended to better protect people from infection, and vaccines that can work against all coronavirus variants.
Avoiding a coronavirus infection is getting harder-Since Omicron’s emergence late last year, cases have surged. Still, experts say it isn’t inevitable. By Luke Money for the LA Times.
The number of coronavirus cases reported in California is on the brink of crossing 10 million, a milestone that probably undercounts the total significantly yet still carries an increasing sense of inevitability.
Since the hyper-transmissible Omicron variant stormed onto the scene in early December, the virus has wormed its way into seemingly every family and social circle. Residents who for years escaped infection were swept up in the resulting tidal wave of cases, though for many, the severity of illness has been lessened by vaccines, the availability of therapeutics and other factors.
A plethora of high-profile people who have recently tested positive — among them Vice President Kamala Harris , Gov. Gavin Newsom and even Dr. Anthony Fauci — have also fueled the notion that catching the coronavirus is no longer a matter of if, but when.
It’s understandable that some might view the coronavirus as inescapable, especially amid massive numbers of new infections. Nearly half of California’s officially reported cases — more than 4.9 million — have been tallied since Dec. 1, the day health officials confirmed Omicron’s presence in California, according to data compiled by The Times.
Officials note those figures are an undercount, and likely a significant one. According to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the most recent seroprevalence estimate for California — the overall share of residents thought to have been infected with the coronavirus at some point — was 55.5% in February.
Still, that means there are likely millions of Californians who have never contracted the virus. Among those are Chin-Hong, as well as Dr. Robert Wachter, chair of UC San Francisco’s Department of Medicine.
Given the proliferation of ever-more-infectious Omicron subvariants, avoiding the coronavirus has become an increasingly tricky proposition.
Though there are indications that the latest coronavirus wave may be starting to level off in California, transmission remains elevated. Over the weeklong period ending Thursday, the state reported an average of 16,130 new cases per day — a decrease of almost 12% from two weeks ago, according to data compiled by The Times. The new infections, however, have not created anywhere near the same level of strain on hospitals as the pandemic’s previous surges. But the number of coronavirus-positive patients is growing steadily.
As of Friday, June 24th, 3,169 such individuals were hospitalized statewide — up 21% from two weeks ago. The number of patients being treated in intensive care units has likewise crept up, to 331, but that number remains among the lowest of the entire pandemic.
It’s true that not all patients are hospitalized for COVID-19 infections. The California Department of Public Health says about half are there “due to COVID-19 and not simply with COVID-19.” But officials say all coronavirus-positive individuals place demands on healthcare facilities.
But while this apparent script — less severe illness, even during a prolonged period of elevated transmission — is a promising development, officials and experts stress that it’s impossible to predict the future course of COVID-19.
One area of concern is the proliferation of two Omicron subvariants: BA.4 and BA.5. Those are not only highly transmissible, but have shown the ability to reinfect survivors of earlier Omicron strains.
In recent weeks, BA.4 and BA.5 have gradually made up a larger share of new coronavirus infections nationwide. Over the seven-day period ending June 18, the CDC estimated BA.5 accounted for 23.5% of new cases, and BA.4 made up 11.4%.
How the subvariants’ growing footprint will alter the pandemic’s path in California remains to be seen. However, the World Health Organization noted recently that “the rise in prevalence of BA.4 and BA.5 has coincided with a rise in cases” in several regions, and, in some countries, that increase “has also led to a surge in hospitalizations and ICU admissions.”
It is possible that increases in hospitalizations are simply the numerical byproduct of growing infections. As the WHO noted, current available evidence doesn’t indicate a change in disease severity associated with either BA.4 or BA.5.
Another wrinkle is the decision by federal health officials to authorize children as young as 6 months to receive either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine. While COVID-19 has not hit the youngest children as hard as other age groups, they’ve still been vulnerable to infection — and could potentially spread the virus to others more at risk of severe health issues.
But at this point, the coronavirus is still widely circulating. And each infection carries with it not just the chance of near-term health impacts, but the risk of developing “long COVID,” in which symptoms can linger for months.
That’s a possible outcome with which Wachter is all too familiar. His wife is still grappling with fatigue and some brain fog weeks after she was infected.
Some who develop long COVID, he said, will have prolonged symptoms that are “life-limiting in a way.” For others, those “will actually be disabling.” In either case, residents shouldn’t ignore the possibility.
Another symptom recently infected people should be wary of is guilt — feeling that catching the coronavirus indicates they made a bad decision and are now paying the price.
After all, people still have to go to work, run errands and take care of their children or other relatives should they become ill. And many are now taking the opportunity to resume activities they either weren’t able to do or didn’t feel comfortable doing earlier in the pandemic.
That’s not to say that precautions like masking in crowded indoor settings and getting vaccinated and boosted, when eligible, don’t still make sense. But Californians needn’t beat themselves up if they take those steps and still fall prey to the coronavirus.
But what do you do if you get COVID? From the LA Times: Got COVID-19? Here’s how you can get over virus
Two antiviral pills are available to many people who test positive. They’re free. By Luke Money and Rong-Gong Lin II
The lines on the at-home test made it official: You’re positive for the coronavirus.
Now what? Week over week, tens of thousands of Californians are asking themselves that question, as the COVID-19 pandemic’s latest wave continues to demonstrate its stubborn sticking power.
Here are some important steps you can take.
See if you qualify for anti-COVID drugs
There are two antiviral oral medications available for eligible patients, and they can get them at no cost.
But you need to start taking the pills within five days of the start of symptoms. With all anti-COVID-19 drugs, it’s best to take the drugs as soon as symptoms begin.
Paxlovid is available for people ages 12 and older who weigh at least 88 pounds.
Molnupiravir can be given to those 18 and older, but it is not advised for patients who are pregnant and is recommended only if other medications aren’t available.
Recipients are eligible if they have one or more risk factors for progression to severe COVID-19. Ask your healthcare provider whether you qualify.
Health officials have said before that the eligibility criteria are quite broad, and it’s likely that many patients would qualify for the drugs. They include being older or having conditions such as being overweight — a category that covers 74% of U.S. residents — physical inactivity, high blood pressure, having ever smoked, being currently or recently pregnant and having an alcohol or drug use disorder, depression, heart disease, asthma or diabetes. Healthcare providers can consider the benefits of prescribing the drug to any individual patient, according to a Food and Drug Administration checklist.
Paxlovid’s manufactuer, Pfizer, said in a statement in mid-June that there wasn’t evidence that Paxlovid helped patients who weren’t at higher risk of severe disease. Pfizer said it was ending a study testing Paxlovid in people not at higher risk.
A federal website lists pharmacies that have the pills.
If you can’t get an appointment with your doctor or don’t have one, you also can go to a “test to treat” site such as a pharmacy or clinic where you can get get tested and an onsite healthcare provider can authorize a prescription or provide the medication to you.
The L.A. County Department of Public Health also has a free call-in service to report a positive test, talk to a healthcare provider, get a prescription and even get the pills sent to you at no cost. Call (833) 540-0473 for more information. The call center is open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
There are also injectable medications to treat COVID-19.
Remdesivir, an antiviral medication, can be given to patients as young as 28 days old and who weigh at least 6.6 pounds. It should be given within seven days of the start of symptoms.
Another injectable drug, Bebtelovimab, is a monoclonal antibody and can be given to those ages 12 and older who weight at least 88 pounds. It is recommended only if other drugs aren’t available.
The drugs themselves are free, but the county health department suggests you check whether a treating facility will charge for administering them.
The county advises on its website that patients first see if their insurance plan covers those charges. “If you do not have insurance, ask the treatment facility if there are fees,” it says. Medicare and Medi-Cal cover all costs for enrollees.
Be aware of post- Paxlovid rebound
Some coronavirus-positive patients who have completed treatment with Paxlovid are getting sick again, and experts are urging people to be cautious if they develop COVID-19-like symptoms again and become infectious.
The FDA said patients should wear a mask and stay home and isolate if they have any symptoms of COVID-19, regardless of whether they have been given an antiviral drug such as Paxlovid.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, who tested positive for the coronavirus two weeks ago, said by video at the Foreign Policy Global Health Forum on Tuesday that he had recurrent COVID-19 symptoms and began testing positive again after completing his first course of Paxlovid.
After completing the first five-day round, he tested negative for three consecutive days, but then tested positive on the fourth day. Over the next day or so, Fauci said, he started to feel “really poorly, much worse than in the first go-around.” Fauci went on a second five-day course of Paxlovid, and on Tuesday, he was on the fourth day of the latest course of treatment, and said “fortunately, I feel reasonably good. I mean, I’m not completely without symptoms, but I certainly don’t feel acutely ill.”
Stay home as much as possible. It’s basic, but it’s true. Those who have been infected should stay home as much as possible, except to get medical care, according to the CDC.
Residents should also carefully monitor their symptoms for possible emergency warning signs — such as trouble breathing, persistent chest pain or pressure, confusion, an inability to wake up or stay awake, and skin, lips or nail beds that have taken on a pale, blue or gray hue.
In general, tests are able to detect an Omicron infection, but enough virus needs to have reproduced and appear at sufficiently high levels in the nose or saliva to be detectable.
There is a potential blind spot of at least one day in which both PCR and rapid antigen tests are unable to detect the contagious status of a coronavirus-positive person.
Isolate for at least five days
Those who test positive should separate themselves from other people as much as possible. Stay in a specific room at home and use a separate bathroom, if possible. Should you need to be around other people or animals, wear a well-fitting mask.
Make sure to cover any coughs or sneezes and wash your hands often. Avoid sharing personal household items with others and, if possible, regularly clean high-touch surfaces such as counters and doorknobs.
In shared spaces, the California Department of Public Health also recommends opening windows to increase air flow, or using exhaust fans or air cleaners when possible.
According to state guidelines, residents can exit isolation after five days if they test negative on or after the fifth day, do not have a fever and their symptoms are improving.
If they test positive on or after Day 5, they should continue to isolate until a day after they get a negative test result, do not have a fever and their symptoms are improving.
You might need to isolate for longer if you are immunocompromised or had severe COVID-19. And if you still have a fever, L.A. County asks that you stay in isolation until 24 hours after the fever ends.
The Economy: Wall Street racked up more losses for stocks Thursday, as the market closed out its worst quarter since the onset of the pandemic in early 2020. The S& P 500 fell 0.9%, its fourth consecutive drop. The benchmark index is now down 21% since it hit an all-time high at the beginning of the year. It entered a bear market earlier in June. All told, the S& P 500’s performance in the first half of 2022 was the worst since the first six months of 1970.
About 15% of U.S. renters aren’t caught up with their payments, according to Census Bureau data, and it’s about to get worse this summer as many leases come due and landlords boost prices.
That represents 8.4 million Americans who were struggling to pay their monthly rents during the June 1-13 period of the census survey. The share was markedly higher for Black Americans — almost a quarter are behind — and for people ages 40-54, an age when many are at their earnings peak.
At least 13% of California’s rental population, or 1.3 million tenants, wasn’t caught up with their landlord during the June 1-13 period of the census survey.
The census added new questions about rents to its household survey in June, just in time to catch the peak season of lease renewals. There are roughly 60 million households who live in rentals, including many on annual leases who haven’t felt the impact from soaring rental prices this past year. That’s about to change.
About 3.5 million households say they are very or somewhat likely to leave their house in the next two months because of eviction. In cities from Atlanta to New York, there’s already evidence of the renting squeeze.
In California, 178,000 renters, or 14%, say it’s very likely they’ll leave the rental in the next two months due to a pending eviction. Nationally, 1.15 million, or 14%, face a high likelihood of forced departures.
In the past 12 months, rent increased by at least $250 per month for nearly 1 million Californians, or 10% of all tenants, according to the survey. Nationally, 6.7 million had $250-plus rent bumps — 11% of all tenants.
It appears that California voters will not get a chance to vote in November on increasing the minimum wage to $18.
The minimum wage initiative was not among seven measures that had enough valid signatures to qualify for the general election ballot by Thursday’s deadline, according to the California secretary of state.
California’s minimum wage for all employers is set to rise to $15.50 an hour in January, as inflation triggers a law governing automatic pay increases. The state’s minimum wage has increased yearly since 2017, and is currently $14 an hour for small employers and $15 an hour for employers with more than 26 workers.
Although California’s minimum wage is higher than the national rate of $7.25, proponents of the measure say the current standard is not enough, especially as housing costs and gas prices soar.
The initiative’s failure to qualify for the ballot came as a surprise, as the campaign announced in May that it had 1 million signatures, well above the 623,212 required.