LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Los Angeles County reported more than 1,500 new COVID-19 infections Friday, along with 25 additional virus-related deaths.
The number of COVID-positive patients in county hospitals, meanwhile, fell to 1,053 on Friday, down from 1,119 on Thursday. Of those patients, 137 were being treated in intensive care units, up slightly from 133 a day earlier.
The 1,534 new infections reported Friday lifted the county's cumulative total from throughout the pandemic to 3,659,260.
Health officials have stressed, however, that the official number of cases is an undercount, due to the large number of people who rely on at-home tests without reporting the results to the county. Other people don't test at all, despite being possibly infected, officials said.
The 25 new deaths gave the county an overall virus-related death toll of 34,969.
"Every day we strive to make choices that are best for us, our families, and the communities we live in," county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement Friday. "The pandemic is not over; however, we have likely entered a new phase as we make use of all the advancements in vaccines, testing, and therapeutics. Lower transmission protects everyone, especially those who are more vulnerable to severe illness or death. There may be challenges ahead, but I am encouraged by the current situation, especially compared to last year at this time. And I remain grateful for the many people of LA County taking steps to minimize the disease's impact."
During a media briefing Thursday, Ferrer noted declines in average daily new infections and hospitalizations.
Ferrer said the seven-day average daily number of new virus infections in the county was about 1,900 as of Thursday, down from about 2,300 at the beginning of January. The county is averaging 162 virus-related hospital admissions per day, down from 192 in late December and from 211 in early January, she said.
While the average admission number has fallen, "this number is still high," Ferrer said, saying the figure is "on par with the peak of the summer surge."
"This is a reminder that while our numbers are currently stable, they are stable at an elevated level," she said.
The county is also averaging 23 new COVID-related deaths per day, up from 15 during the last week in December. Ferrer said the increase was expected, given the spike in case numbers that occurred at the end of the year.
Ferrer also presented numbers showing the disproportionate impact of COVID hospitalizations and deaths on people aged 80 and older. She said the death rate for that age group was five times higher than the rate for people aged 65 to 79, and the hospitalization rate was three times higher.
She again encouraged residents to continue taking precautions such as wearing masks in indoor settings, and ensuring they are up to date on vaccinations and boosters.
L.A. County remains in the federal government's "medium" transmission range. Masks are still required indoors at health-care and congregate-care facilities, for anyone exposed to the virus in the past 10 days, and at businesses where they are required by the owner. Otherwise, they are only strongly recommended at indoor settings.