Masks orders are set to return to Los Angeles after the city officially crossed the threshold of ‘high’ Covid risk of Thursday night – with official guidance saying that mask mandates will return if it remains above that threshold for at least 14 consecutive days.
According to most recent data from the city’s health department, the city is averaging 6,384 new cases every day and its test positivity rate – which has become one of the most effective ways to judge the current pandemic-state – has ballooned to 15 percent.
It comes as the BA.5 variant, which is now dominant in the U.S., continues its spread and causes case counts to jump across America.
Daily infections in America have increased by 30 percent over the past week to 140,677 per day, while deaths have crept up 25 percent to 536 daily over the last seven days.
Daily Covid cases in Los Angeles are beginning to creep upwards again, with America’s second largest city not averaging 6,384 new cases every day
Los Angeles’ test positivity rate, an important metric for determining Covid risk in the city, has ballooned to 15 percent in recent days, according to official data
The BA.5 (dark green) variant now makes up 65% of active cases in the U.S., over taking the BA 2.12.1 (red) strain – which now makes up just 17% of cases. The BA.4 (light green) variant is responsible for 16% of U.S. Covid cases
Whether Los Angeles remains under ‘high’ Covid risk is unknown, but all three relevant figures – cases, test positivity and hospitalizations – are all trending upwards.
America’s second largest city is currently averaging 157 Covid-related hospitalizations every day, according to most recent official data.
‘While we are not seeing anywhere near the devastation we saw last winter’s omicron surge, we are seeing much higher case numbers than we saw at the peak of the delta surge. It’s unlikely we are at the peak of this surge,’ Barbara Ferrer, the city’s public health director said Thursday.
But she added that Covid has killed more people in the city through the year’s first six months than any other infectious disease.
If officials go through with plans to bring back mask mandates, which would be reinstated as early as July 29, Los Angeles would become the only city in America to require masks in all indoor public places.
It may not be the last, though, with officials in New York City also pushing to bring back mask orders amid rising cases in the Big Apple as well. Mayor Eric Adams has been hesitant to reinstate pandemic-related restrictions since he took office in January, though.
Dr Anthony Fauci, America’s top infectious disease expert, is also recommending a return of masks amid widescale spread of the BA.5 variant.
‘[BA.5 is] something we absolutely need to take seriously. It has a transmission advantage over the prior variant that were dominant,’ Fauci told MSNBC.
The variant is believed to be the most infectious form of Omicron to arrive yet. Early data from South Africa – where it was first detected – also shows it may have the ability to evade natural Covid immunity provided by previous infection.
This is especially dangerous as it means many people who believe they are temporarily safe from Covid due to a previous infection are suddenly vulnerable once again.
It arrived alongside the BA.4 variant – also detected earlier this year in South Africa – which now makes up 16 percent of cases, per CDC data.
The BA 2.12.1 variant that was dominant before BA.5 now makes up just 17 percent of cases, being snuffed out by the two new strains.
The rampant spread of the two new strains, along with the rising cases that have come with it, have officials like Fauci recommending that Americans bring back some Covid measures they may be already-to-familiar with from the past two years.
‘Everybody wants to put this pandemic behind us and feel and hope that it doesn’t exist. It does, the good news is we have the capability and the tools to address it, and we need to utilize those tools,’ Fauci, who serves as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease said.
‘For example, getting vaccinated if you’re not primarily vaccinated. If you’re do for a booster, get a booster.
‘And if you’re in an area of high dynamic of infection – and were talking about mandating anything – but recommending people when they are in indoor congregate settings to wear a mask. Those are simple doable things that can help prevent us from even having more of a problem then we are having now.’
Booster shots will likely soon include newly formulated jabs meant to target the Omicron variant, as vaccine manufacturers aim to roll out new shots in the coming months.
Currently available shots were formulated to fight the original Wuhan strain of the virus that erupted across the world at the start of 2020.
The virus has mutated greatly in the time since, and the Omicron variant-family has the ability to evade protection from infection provided by those shots.
Some experts disagree that shots tailored to Omicron are necessary, though, as the protection against severe infection, hospitalization and death by the original shots is still effective against the highly infectious strain.