LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Los Angeles County logged nearly 5,200 new COVID- 19 infections during a three-day period ending Monday, along with 61 more virus-related deaths.
According to the county Department of Public Health, which doesn't release COVID numbers over the weekend, another 2,668 infections were logged Saturday, 1,337 on Sunday, and 1,179 Monday. Sunday and Monday figures have traditionally been low due to delays in reporting from the weekend.
Official case numbers overall are also believed to be undercounts of actual virus cases due to the number of people who rely on at-home tests without reporting the results to the county, and the people who don't test at all.
The 5,182 new COVID cases reported by the county lifted the overall total from throughout the pandemic to 3,652,052.
The county also reported 61 new virus-related deaths over the three-day period -- 22 on Saturday, 20 on Sunday and 19 on Monday. The new fatalities gave the county a cumulative death toll of 34,867.
The seven-day average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus was 8.5% as of Monday, down from 12.8% a week ago.
Updated hospitalization figures were not immediately available. As of Saturday, there were 1,202 virus-positive patients in county hospitals, with 139 of them being treated in intensive care units.
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.
Thousands of kids returned to Los Angeles Unified School District campuses Monday following the winter break. Health officials urged school students and staff to test for COVID-19 before returning to campuses, and to wear a mask for 10 days to help prevent virus spread.
County health officials pointed to the rise of a new virus strain known as XBB.1.5, which is believed to be responsible for 40% of new cases nationally and 9% in California. The rising trend is expected to be reflected soon among Los Angeles County cases, officials said.
"With XBB.1.5 rising across the country, I want you to be aware that very soon we could see the new strain become more dominant here in L.A. County," Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement last week. "I hope everyone will take action to help minimize the impact, especially knowing it will be felt most by those vulnerable to severe illness. Every day I see examples of how people in L.A. County care for others and this is one more way to do so. We have learned a lot over the past few years and it is important that we all put the knowledge to use to help protect our community."
Health officials noted that people should especially take precautions following holiday gatherings that may have led to transmission of the virus, and could be exacerbated when residents return to crowded workplaces or schools.
"It can take up to 10 days for a person who has COVID-19 to test positive or display symptoms of infection," according to the county Department of Public Health. "To limit the post-holiday spread of infection, county residents should test before going back to school or work and upon returning, wear a well-fitting, high-filtration mask indoors for at least 10 days, in addition to continuing to mask in indoor public spaces."
The Los Angeles Unified School District circulated a message to families last week, also recommending that all students and employees get tested for COVID-19 prior to returning to campus.
"We also encourage testing the week of Jan. 16," according to the district. "Rapid antigen tests were provided to schools and offices. Please contact your principal or supervisor if you need a test. Thank you for doing your part to keep everyone safe."
COVID infection rates in the county have been declining in recent weeks, but health officials noted that a "significant number" of new cases, hospitalizations and deaths are still being reported regularly.
The seven-day average daily case count was 2,111 as of Friday, down about 11% from the previous week. The average daily number of COVID-positive patients in county hospitals was 1,247 as of Friday, up from 1,207 the previous week. The county is also reporting an average of 20 virus-related deaths per day, up from 16 a week earlier.