LOS ANGELES, CA-With 14 outbreaks of coronavirus in the classroom in August, confirming thousands of COVID-19 cases among students and staff and thousands more forced to quarantine in Los Angeles County, health officials urged to have patience in the fall as the pandemic disturbs return to school.
The Los Angeles County Public Health Department on Thursday withdrew against frustration with strict health protocols aimed at curbing the spread of the virus through schools.
“The early data we have about schools is somewhat sober,” Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer told reporters during a weekly online briefing.
This week alone, five school outbreaks were identified in Los Angeles County, she said.
“We have a big risk right now,” she said. “We have many people who return to more normal routines. We have well over a million children left in school and all the staff and teachers who support these children and their learning. We also have many more who go back to work, “and some companies are bringing people back. And we still have the Delta variant in circulation in LA County. … And that Delta is no less contagious today than it was a week ago.”
The Delta variant is considered about twice as contagious as the original outbreak that was responsible for the county’s increases last year.
However, behavior may also play a role in the rapid spread of coronavirus this summer.
A USC study conducted in Los Angeles County found that unvaccinated people were more likely to go out and drink and club and attend indoor gatherings. The study showed that vaccinated people were more likely than their unvaccinated cohorts to wear face masks and avoid large gatherings and handshakes, the Los Angeles Times reported.
But vaccination rates have slowly climbed in Los Angeles, and the county is beginning to see a drop in case rates. It is still too early to say whether the summer rise has peaked.
“We are seeing a slight decline in the average number of cases over the seven days, and in the past week we have seen cases fall by about 15 percent,” Ferrer said. “With increased routine screening testing in the coming weeks, however, I believe our case count will remain relatively high.
“So I’m not sure I would say we’re past the top. I hope we stabilize, that we continue to pay close attention to mitigation, and most importantly, we need to significantly increase vaccination rates and up. “
Ferrer said the county has also seen a slowdown in the number of people hospitalized, but deaths have risen 6% over the past week and now reached a seven-day average of 18 a day.
“This is a reminder that the virus continues to cause serious life-threatening illness among many who are infected,” she said. “And the losses are frankly more tragic because almost anyone can be prevented with our extremely safe and widely available vaccines.”
The county reported a further 31 deaths on Thursday, increasing the total death toll from the pandemic to 25,181. A further 3,226 cases were also confirmed for a pandemic totaling 1,394,488.
According to state figures, there were 1,723 COVID-positive patients in Los Angeles County hospitals as of Thursday, down from 1,731 on Wednesday. There were 451 people on intensive care, down from 463 on Wednesday.
The rolling daily rate of people who tested positive for the virus was 2.75%. That was down from 3.7% a week ago, a decline Ferrer attributed to increases in routing screening tests, “which, as you know, occur primarily among people who have no symptoms.”
According to Ferrer, 74% of eligible LA County residents age 12 and older have received at least one dose of vaccine, and 64% are fully vaccinated. Of the county’s total population of about 10.3 million people – including those under the age of 12 who are not eligible for shots – 63% have received at least one dose and 55% are fully vaccinated.
Again highlighting the effectiveness of the vaccines, Ferrer noted that among 5.2 million residents who were fully vaccinated as of Tuesday, 32,678 tested positive for the virus, at a rate of 0.63%. Only 881 fully vaccinated people have been hospitalized, at a rate of 0.017%, and 95 have died, at a rate of 0.0018%.
Ferrer noted that unvaccinated black residents continue to have the highest incidence of new COVID infections, but that the population experienced a 28% drop in infection rates over the past two weeks.
“However, we are concerned about the continuing increase in the case rate among unvaccinated Latinos who have seen their cases increase by 200% over the last month.
Ferrer also provided case statistics regarding schools, calling the results “somewhat sobering.” She said that during the week 16.-22. In August, 3,186 new cases were confirmed at schools, with the highest percentage involving Los Angeles Unified School District campuses, where weekly tests are required.
During the month of August, 14 school outbreaks have been confirmed with three or more contagious infections, with Ferrer noting that half of them were related to youth sports.
City News Service and Patch Staffer Paige Austin contributed to this report.