If it feels like a lot more people you know have been catching COVID-19 recently, it’s not just your imagination. Cases are on the rise again fueled by highly contagious omicron subvariants.
Boosters don’t seem to be preventing most people from getting sick multiple times. And, this week, LA County is poised to bring back the indoor mask mandate.
“It’s very likely that it’s going to happen and if not by the end of this week perhaps next week or sometime before the end of the year,” Alice Benjamin, a registered nurse and clinical nurse specialist, said. “I think it’s important for people to understand that we need to get in a mind of readiness.”
Infection rates aren’t the only thing going up, so are the number of people being hospitalized for COVID.
“Rates are up and it’s not just infection rates but it’s the COVID positive hospitalization rates which have triggered this,” Benjamin said.
LA County has also seen a steady increase in the number of COVID related deaths.
“Just at the end of last week we were seeing 100 deaths a week from COVID and just a month ago it was at 50,” Benjamin said. “This mask mandate might be a very good idea.”
Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer has said that if the county remains in the high virus-activity level as defined by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for two consecutive weeks, the indoor mask mandate would summarize. The county is set to reach that two-week mark on Thursday, meaning the mandate would take effect Friday.
Ferrer indicated last week, however, that there might be a delay, depending on the trends in new COVID infections and
hospitalizations. She noted during a Thursday media briefing that average daily case numbers appeared to be leveling off.
If a mandate is ordered, it would stay in effect until the county moves back into the “medium” transmission category for two straight weeks.
Why are COVID case counts so high?
The new subvariants are highly contagious and make up most of the current infections throughout the county.
“We have people who are vaccinated and boosted and are still getting reinfected,” Benjamin said. “Our concern is that these variants are being able to get around our vaccine immunity and our natural immunity.”
Just after coming off an overnight shift, Benjamin described the current state inside some hospitals.
“The ERs were extremely busy last night,” Benjamin said. “I didn’t see an empty bed at any of the ERs that I visited last night.”
Will Los Angeles schools require masks?
With a new school year just around the corner, Benjamin offers some advice for parents.
“Avoid traveling two weeks before school starts, that way you can reduce any risk of transmission related to travel. And also talk to the kiddos,” Benjamin said. “I’d also recommend keeping a few COVID at-home tests and come cold medicine in your cabinet because we saw those fly off the shelves last year.”
No word has been released on whether schools will all reinstate a mask mandate when schools open, but Benjamin says that wearing one is the best thing to do.
“Encourage your kids to bring masks to school,” Benjamin said. “Right now it’s not mandated but if they see a kid sniffling in their class or it’s very populated and windows aren’t open, they teach our kids to use critical thinking.”