COVID Numbers Rising – Masks Prevent Infection

With continued increases in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths over the past two weeks, wearing high-quality respirator masks and getting tested are critical steps to slowing the spread of COVID-19, as vaccination, boosters, and medicines remain key strategies for reducing serious illness and death.

While Los Angeles County remains at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) designated COVID-19 Community Level of Medium, the County is very likely to move into High Level later this week as the rate of daily new admissions continues to increase. Using LA County specific data, as of Monday, the County was at 8.8 new admissions per 100,000 people. Once the County reaches 10 new admissions per 100,000 residents, the County will enter the High Community Level. Should the County remain in the High Community Level designation for two consecutive weeks, universal indoor masking, in alignment with the CDC, would be implemented across LA County.

After weeks of high case numbers fueled by highly infectious strains of COVID-19, the number of people severely ill and needing to be hospitalized is increasing rapidly. Over the last seven days, the average number of COVID-positive patients per day in LA County hospitals was 1,035, a 40% increase from two weeks ago when the average number of COVID-positive patients per day was 741.

Deaths, which typically lag hospitalizations by several weeks are also increasing, with an average of 14 deaths reported per day this past week, compared to an average of eight deaths two weeks ago.

As COVID-19 infections remain devastating for thousands of individuals, it is important to note that COVID is still a leading cause of death in LA County. Since January 2022, over 4,300 county residents have died from COVID; this is more than the average number of all annual deaths from influenza, colds, motor vehicle fatalities, and overdoses . On average, there is only one death each year from the common cold, and less than 1,500 from influenza.

Given the evidence that COVID-19 is more deadly than both colds and influenza, appropriate strategies are needed to reduce high transmission, since only those infected can suffer the most severe outcomes from the virus.

Studies continue to show that widespread, universal masking with well-fitting, high-quality masks, remains one of the simplest, most effective measures to reduce transmission of COVID-19. One study showed that, in 2020, counties that had a mask mandate had case rates that were 35% lower than counties that did not have one. Studies show that respirators continue to provide especially good protection. A 2021 study in California found that people who regularly used respirators like N95s or KN95s had 83% lower odds of testing positive than people who never wore masks.

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