LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The number of coronavirus patients at Los Angeles County hospitals has decreased by 32 to 1,229, according to the latest state numbers released Saturday.
Of those patients, 143 were being treated in intensive care, up from 134 the previous day.
Health officials have said previously that roughly 40% of the patients were actually admitted for COVID-related issues, while the rest were admitted for other reasons but tested positive at the hospital.
The statewide total of COVID-positive patients dropped by 15 people to 4,413.
County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer told reporters Thursday that the number of available, staffed beds in county hospitals had dropped to its lowest level of the pandemic, thanks to the impact of rising flu and other respiratory illnesses in combination with COVID, exacerbated by limited hospital staffing.
On Friday, local health officials reported more than 3,200 new COVID- 19 infections, along with 20 new virus-related deaths. That brought the county's cumulative totals to 3,598,453 cases and 34,410 fatalities since the pandemic began, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
On Thursday, Ferrer reported the county's 20th pediatric virus-related death. The vast majority of people who have died from the virus were elderly or had underlying health issues.
As of Friday, the seven-day average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus in the county was 10.9%.
Ferrer on Thursday reported noticeable drops in daily case numbers and hospital admissions, although daily death numbers had doubled from two weeks ago.
On Friday, she again urged residents to exercise caution during the upcoming holiday season, and to be sure they are up-to-date on vaccinations and booster shots.
"We have the strategies, information and resources to celebrate in- person with friends and family in a safe way," she said in a statement. "I hope that over the next few weeks, everyone can use this information to keep each other protected. Simple efforts can lead to big returns, and this works best when people come together and act collectively. We all have a role to play to reduce COVID-19 transmission and I appreciate the inspiring efforts I have witnessed in the community. Your actions have personal impact, and also impact the people around you."
Health officials are continuing to closely monitor hospital data, as they consider a possible return to a universal mask mandate.
As of Thursday, the county remained in the "high" COVID activity category, as defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with an average daily new case rate of 204 per 100,000 residents. The county could fall back to the "medium" category if that number falls back below 200 per 100,000 residents.
Ferrer has said previously the county would reinstitute a mask-wearing mandate if the county is in the "high" category and meets two hospital thresholds:
-- if the rate of daily hospital admissions tops 10 per 100,000 residents; and
-- if the percent of staffed hospital beds occupied by COVID patients tops 10%.
The county's daily hospital admission rate is 14 per 100,000, while the percent of staffed hospital beds occupied by COVID patients was 7.2%.
Mask wearing continues to be "strongly recommended" by the county at indoor public settings. But Ferrer said that even absent a mandate, residents should start wearing them, given the elevated rate of transmission.
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.