LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The number of COVID-19-positive patients in Los Angeles County hospitals fell below 400, according to the latest data, reaching a level not seen since early last July, while the public health director called for continued federal funding for virus testing, vaccinations and other treatments.
According to state figures, the county's COVID hospital patient number was 378 as of Wednesday, down from 404 on Tuesday. The number of those patients being treated in intensive care was 54, down from 66 a day earlier.
The county reported 27 new COVID deaths on Wednesday, raising the overall death toll to 31,535.
Another 714 COVID cases were confirmed, giving the county a pandemic total of 2,826,928.
The rolling daily average rate of people testing positive for the virus was 0.7% as of Wednesday, the same rate as Tuesday.
According to the county Department of Public Health, thousands of doses of COVID therapeutics -- the oral medications Paxlovid and Molnupiravir and the injection treatment Evusheld -- have been administered locally by the county or through pharmacies and other health agencies. A federal ``Test to Treat'' program allows people to be tested for COVID at local pharmacies and receive therapeutic treatments if they are deemed eligible. Residents can find participating pharmacies at ph.lacounty.gov/covidmedicines.
According to the county, a total of 24,080 doses of Paxlovid have been administered locally, along with 40,988 doses of Molnupiravir and 14,568 doses of Evusheld. The majority of all doses were given to residents in ``the most under-resourced communities in the county.''
County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer pushed Wednesday for continued federal funding of all COVID-response measures.
``As therapeutics become an increasingly important strategy for our post-surge plan, Public Health is concerned about the potential loss of federal funding needed to address the ongoing pandemic,'' she said in a statement. ``The loss of this funding, which would also impact testing, vaccinations, boosters, masks and other treatments, threatens our recovery and will result in increased risk for communities that have already borne the brunt of COVID-19.
``Without the ability to secure additional live-saving treatments, our ability to continue increasing access to these therapeutics will evaporate, and we urge Congress to provide states and local public health departments with the funding needed to effectively continue the COVID-19 response.''
According to the county, as of last Thursday, 83% of eligible county residents aged 5 and older had received at least one dose of COVID vaccine, and 75% were fully vaccinated. However, only 30% of children aged 5-11 have been fully vaccinated, the lowest rate of any age group.
Among Black residents, only 55% are fully vaccinated, along with 59% of Latina/o residents, compared to 73% of white residents and 82% of Asians.
Los Angeles County will align with the state next month and lift the requirement that attendees of indoor mega-events such as sporting events or concerts show proof of COVID vaccination or a negative test.
According to the county Department of Public Health, the requirement will be lifted April 1 in conjunction with the state, which is also scrapping the mandate. The move follows the lifting of other COVID restrictions -- such as indoor mask-wearing requirements -- in response to dwindling infection and hospitalization numbers.
Meanwhile, the city of Los Angeles took an initial step Wednesday to lift its strict law requiring people to show proof of vaccination before entering indoor restaurants, gyms, entertainment and recreational facilities, personal care establishments, some city buildings and mega-events with 5,000 or more attendees. The City Council tentatively approved a lifting of the requirements Wednesday, but a final vote is required next week.
Despite the easing of such restrictions, county health officials continue to urge precautionary steps against virus spread, noting that the BA.2 subvariant of COVID-19 is slowly beginning to expand locally, and will likely gain a stronger foothold in the county, mirroring the pattern seen overseas and in some East Coast cities.
During the week ending Feb. 26, 6.4% of all COVID specimens that were analyzed for variants turned out to be the result of BA.2, which is a more- infectious offshoot of the Omicron variant that fueled the recent winter surge in infections. That was up from 4.5% the week prior.
Health officials noted Monday that while the percentage is still low, the same pattern was seen with the Omicron and Delta variants that both grew into major spreaders of the virus. They said BA.2 is currently estimated to be responsible for 23% of sequenced cases nationally, while representing 30% of infections in New York City.