LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The number of coronavirus patients in Los Angeles County hospitals has surpassed 700 amid rising infection rates, according to the latest state data.
There were 727 COVID-positive patients in county hospitals as of Tuesday's update, up from 681 Saturday. Of those patients, 88 were being treated in intensive care, up from 77.
The number of statewide COVID-positive patients increased by 98 to 2,581.
Health officials have said previously that roughly 40% of virus patients were actually admitted for COVID-related issues, while the rest were admitted for other reasons but tested positive at the hospital.
The county Department of Public Health reported 1,661 new COVID-19 infections Tuesday, raising the overall number from throughout the pandemic to 3,521,712.
Overall official case numbers also believed to be artificially low, due to residents who use at-home tests and do not report the results to the county. County Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis noted last week that many other people who may be infected don't get tested at all.
The county reported seven new virus-related deaths Tuesday, giving the county a pandemic death toll of 34,125.
According to the county, the seven-day average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus rose to 8.5% as of Tuesday, up from 6.5% a week ago.
The county has been seeing steadily rising case and hospitalization numbers since the beginning of November, prompting health officials on Thursday to announce that they are again "strongly recommending" that people wear masks at indoor public settings.
The recommendation falls short of a masking mandate, but 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 locations where they are required by the operator, Davis said Thursday.
For the past few months, indoor masking has been a matter of personal preference, unless individual businesses chose to require them. The county shifted back to "strongly recommending" indoor mask wearing on Thursday when the local seven-day average of daily new COVID-19 infections rose to 100 per 100,000 residents, up from 86 per 100,000 a week ago. The rate the previous week was 65 per 100,000 residents.
The rising case rates mirrored steady increases seen in daily reported case numbers and hospitalizations since the beginning of November.
Davis said the county is currently reporting about 1,500 new cases per day, up from 1,300 per day a week ago and up 52% since Nov. 1. He noted that the reported cases only represent a portion of actual infections occurring in the county, since many residents rely on at-home tests that are not reported to health officials, while many more don't get tested at all.
Average daily COVID-related hospital admissions are averaging 97 per day, up 26% from 77 per day last week, and a 54% jump since Nov. 1, Davis said.
Daily reported virus-related deaths remain relatively low, at about eight per day, but Davis said with the increases in case rates and hospitalizations, that number could begin to climb.