LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The number of coronavirus patients in Los Angeles County hospitals continues to inch downward, dropping by four people to 253, down from over 1,300 in December, according to the latest state data released Saturday.
Of those patients, 28 were being treated in intensive care.
Meanwhile, the statewide total of COVID-positive patients dropped by 32 people to 1,163, the lowest it's been since May of 2022.
Some of the hospitalized patients were admitted for other reasons and learned they had COVID after a mandated test.
The latest state numbers come two days after local health officials reported another 2,533 COVID infections over the past week, down from 2,659 the previous week, and 51 virus-related fatalities, down slightly from 54 deaths recorded the previous week, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
A majority of people who die with COVID-19 are elderly or have an underlying health condition such as diabetes, heart disease or hypertension, health officials have said.
The department also reported its 25th COVID-related pediatric death, and again warned about the local presence of a newly emerging strain of the virus.
No details were released about the pediatric death.
The county provides updated COVID data every Thursday.
"Our data metrics are reassuring and allowing many of us to engage with less risk in the activities we love," county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement. "In order for us to be able to understand the level of risk, it is important to continue monitoring patterns of transmission and severe illness, along with understanding when and how the virus is mutating. ... For those at higher risk for severe illness, common- sense precautions may always need to be taken."
The latest strain of the virus, officially known as XBB.1.16 but commonly referred to as Arcturus, continues to show its presence locally, although still at low levels, according to the county. The variant accounted for 2.4% of COVID specimens locally that underwent specialized testing to identify strains of the virus.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that Arcturus accounts for 10.3% of all cases in the western region that includes California.
Health officials have noted that there is a possible link between the Arcturus strain and pink eye, and with other symptoms "that could be easily confused with allergies."
"COVID-19 numbers remain stable and low in Los Angeles County, however, in past years, Los Angeles County has seen a rise in COVID-19 transmission in late spring and summer months as the school year ends and summer festivities start," according to a statement from the department. "Public Health officials remain optimistic a summer uptick in cases can be minimized so long as residents take sensible precautions."
On Friday morning, the World Health Organization announced that it no longer classified as a global public health emergency, ending a declaration that was made three years ago when COVID-19 began spreading widely.
Speaking at a news conference in Switzerland, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, "For more than a year, the pandemic has been on a downward trend with population immunity increasing from vaccination and infection, mortality decreasing, and the pressure on health systems easing. This trend has allowed most countries to return to life as we knew it before COVID-19."
The United States is scheduled to end its COVID emergency declaration next Thursday.
Ghebreyesus warned, however, that the move by the WHO does not mean that COVID no longer poses and threat, saying the virus is "still killing and it's still changing."