With Gradual Increase of BA.2 Subvariant in LA County, Layering of Safety Protections Critical for Residents and Workers at Elevated Risk

565 New Positive Cases Reported on Sunday, 370 New Positive Cases Reported Today, and 29 New Deaths Due to COVID-19 in Los Angeles County; LA County will Align with the State of Mega Indoor Event Guidance

As multiple COVID metrics continue to decline, the state is lifting the requirements for vaccine and test verification at indoor mega events starting April 1. LA County will align with the state and post an updated Health Officer Order later this week. While we’re encouraged with the progress made, as the BA.2 subvariant gradually increases in LA County, layering in safety measures remains important for protecting residents and workers at elevated risk of severe illness.

For the latest measurement period, the week ending February 26th, 6.4% of all sequenced specimens in LA County were identified as the BA.2 subvariant, an increase from the week prior when 4.5% of specimens were identified as BA.2.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the BA.2 subvariant now accounts for 23% of all sequenced specimens nationally, with the Northeast region seeing higher percentages than other regions. For example, New York City reported that the Omicron subvariant BA.2 accounts for nearly 30% of cases. The BA.2 subvariant also accounts for over 20% of the cases in the Midwest, with 20% identified as BA.2 in Chicago.

Although LA County has identified a lower percentage of cases to date associated with BA.2 when compared to some other cities, this is a similar pattern as seen with previous new virus strains and residents should be prepared to mitigate the risk of increased transmission associated with this more infectious subvariant.

Efforts to slow transmission remain a priority, particularly by increasing vaccination and booster coverage, as data has shown that these approved vaccines provide significant protection against variants.

As of March 17, 83% of LA County residents ages five and older had received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine and 75% were fully vaccinated. Additionally, 57% of eligible residents ages 12 and older received the additional protection of a booster.  This leaves about 2.6 million booster-dose eligible residents not benefiting from the extra protection of a booster dose.

With gaps in coverage by race/ethnicity, age groups, and geography, there are many pockets of vulnerability across the county. Only 30% of children ages 5-11 are fully vaccinated, the lowest of any age group, compared with 85% fully vaccinated youth ages 12-17.

As of March 13, 55% of Black residents and 59% of Latinx residents are fully vaccinated, compared with 73% of White residents and 82% of Asian residents.

There are also certain geographic regions with lower vaccination coverage than others, including parts of the San Gabriel Valley, South Central LA, and the Antelope Valley.  As of February 27, there were also significant gaps in booster coverage with only 31% of residents five and older living in low-resourced communities receiving a booster dose, compared with 43% of residents five and older living in better resourced communities.

“As always, we extend our deepest sympathies to everyone mourning the loss of a loved one from COVID,” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, PhD, MPH, MEd, Director of Public Health. “The increasing presence of the highly transmissible BA.2 subvariant in many regions of this country reminds us that we need to remain vigilant and prepared for the possibility of more cases in the near future. And while discouraging to face this possibility, the best way to blunt another surge in cases from increasing hospitalizations and deaths is to increase vaccination and booster coverage. Given the compelling evidence that the vaccines continue to protect against all variants, and their wide availability, residents and workers are urged to use the next couple of weeks to get to up to date on their vaccines. Waiting until we start seeing increases in cases is not optimal, since once there are more people testing positive, there is already more community transmission.”

Public Health reported 565 new positive cases on Sunday, with an additional 370 positive cases today, and 29 new deaths for Sunday and today. Today’s case and death numbers reflect delays in weekend reporting.  Of the 29 new deaths reported today, one person was between the ages of 30-49, six were between the ages of 50-64, six were between the ages of 65-79, and 16 were aged 80 years or older. Of the 29 newly reported deaths, 27 had underlying health conditions.  To date, the total number of deaths in L.A. County is 31,491.

Public Health has reported a total of 2,825,423 positive cases of COVID-19 across all areas of L.A. County. Note that 1,157 additional cases have been added to the cumulative total of positive cases due to a backlog of cases from the surge. Almost all of the backlog cases these past two weeks have been reported from two labs. The California Department of Public Health is aware of these reporting delays which affect case counts across many parts of the state. Today’s positivity rate is 0.6%.

There are 404 people with COVID-19 currently hospitalized. Testing results are available for more than 11,615,300 individuals, with 22% of people testing positive.

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