LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Los Angeles County reported more than 6,800 new COVID-19 cases in its latest data covering a three-day period, along with 61 new virus-related deaths.
The county Department of Public Health reported 21 deaths on Saturday and 20 each on Sunday and Monday. Health officials recently noted an uptick in virus-related death numbers, following a recent spike in hospitalizations. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said last week she feared the fatality numbers could increase in the coming weeks due to that rise in hospital patients infected with the virus.
The new deaths gave the county an overall pandemic death toll of 34,471.
The 6,807 new infections -- 3,770 from Saturday, 1,819 from Sunday and 1,218 from Monday -- raised the county's cumulative total from throughout the pandemic to 3,605,228. The county does not release COVID numbers on the weekends.
Health officials have stressed that the number of COVID infections reported each day is actually an undercount, due to the number of people who use at-home tests or don't test at all.
Updated numbers of COVID-positive patients in county hospitals were not immediately available. As of Saturday, state figures showed 1,229 such patients being treated in county hospitals, with 143 of them in intensive care.
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 vast majority of people who have died from the virus were elderly or had underlying health issues.
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.
As of Monday, the seven-day average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus in the county was 10.1%, slightly below the rate from a week ago.
Ferrer on Friday 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 was 14 per 100,000 as of Thursday, 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.