The BA.2 subvariant of COVID-19 is continuing to strengthen its presence in Los Angeles County, now accounting for nearly one-third of all virus cases that are screened for variants, the public health director said on March 31. The spread of the highly infectious variant, however, has not translated into a rise in virus-related hospitalizations, likely attributable to relatively high numbers of people who are vaccinated. For the week that ended March 12, 32% of COVID infections that underwent laboratory sequencing turned out to be the result of BA.2, which is an offshoot of the omicron variant that fueled a surge in cases over the winter months. Omicron is still the dominate variant found in the testing, but the percentage of BA.2 cases has been steadily increasing.
County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer noted that since the testing reflects cases from two weeks ago, BA.2 most likely now accounts for an even higher percentage of COVID infections. But she said that as of March 27, only about 3% of visits to hospital emergency departments in the county are COVID-related. She added that the slowing of the decline could be related to the recent lifting of COVID health measures, such as indoor masking requirements.
“Every single time we have reduced the restrictions or levels of protection that are required, we have always seen an uptick (in cases),” Ferrer said.
The county on March 31 reported 784 new COVID cases, along with 16 additional virus-related deaths. The numbers raised the county’s cumulative totals to 2,833,206 cases and 31,669. The average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus was 1.1% as of March 31, up slightly from the roughly 0.7% rate from the past few weeks. The rate was 0.9% on March 30.
Los Angeles County this week began offering second booster doses of COVID-19 vaccine, following approval of the additional Pfizer and Moderna shots by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The additional boosters were authorized for people who are age 50 and over, and who received their last booster shot at least four months ago.
Boosters are also available for younger people who are considered immunocompromised and at higher risk of severe illness from the virus.Information about vaccination sites is available the sites is available online at VaccinateLACounty.com.. According to the county, as of March 27, 83% of eligible county residents age 5 and older had received at least one dose of COVID vaccine, and 75% were fully vaccinated. However, only 31% of children aged 5-11 have been fully vaccinated, the lowest rate of any age group. CNS