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COVID outbreaks hit California workplaces and schools

The summer COVID crisis is worsening in California, with infections spreading in schools and workplaces, and hospitalizations increasing.

While health officials continue to say these numbers are not alarming, infections are beginning to further disrupt daily life.

In Los Angeles County, the number of new investigations into workplace COVID-19 outbreaks has tripled in the past month, reaching 73 for the 30-day period ending September 1. confirmed viral transmission in a workplace and not just a cluster of cases where people have been infected elsewhere.

In Los Angeles County schools, COVID-19 outbreaks rose 43% in the most recent week, with data available to reach a total of 33, up from 23 the previous week.

Santa Paula High School in Ventura County canceled a college football game scheduled for Friday against La Cañada High School after 15 team members tested positive for the coronavirus and other students reported illnesses. symptoms, according to its director, David Keys. Three other students on the cheer squad tested positive, said Julissa Carrillo, a school district spokeswoman.

Among the Los Angeles County work sites where active investigations into the COVID-19 outbreak are underway include the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, CBS Studio Center Stage 18, Department of City of Los Angeles Public Works and Westchester-Loyola Village Branch Library. , the eighth floor of the headquarters of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works, the Sierra Madre Playhouse and the United Talent Agency in Beverly Hills.

Officials noted that Los Angeles County is not experiencing the type of exponential COVID-19 growth reported in previous waves. Hospitalizations, although on the rise, remain at lower levels than last year at this time. So far in Los Angeles County, there has not been a significant increase in daily deaths from COVID-19.

Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer went so far as to say she doesn’t view the current rise in COVID-19 as a “wave,” but rather as a “bump.”

“In our waves, we’ve seen what I would call almost exponential growth, like things are doubling at a faster rate,” Ferrer told The Times in an interview on Thursday. “We don’t really have that. … I would wait to call something a wave until I see something that shows there has been a faster rate of increase.”

In fact, based on other measures, some indicators show more moderate increases.

For the week that ended Aug. 26, the most recent data available, coronavirus levels in LA County sewage were 29% off last winter’s peak — not much higher than the week. former.

Officially reported coronavirus cases are stable compared to the previous week. There were an average of 569 reported cases per day for the week ending Saturday, a stable figure from the previous week’s total of 571.

The proportion of emergency department visits designated as COVID-related is also stable. For the week ending Sunday, 5% of ER visits countywide were coronavirus-related, about the same as the previous week’s 5.1%.

The number of people infected with the coronavirus in LA County hospitals averaged 559 a day for the week that ended Saturday. This is a 7% increase from the previous week, but a smoother rise than the 22% week-over-week increase.

Deaths from COVID-19 remain stable and low. The county averaged about 1.3 deaths per day from COVID-19 for the week that ended Monday, up from about 1 per day the previous week.

And even the increase in outbreaks in schools is no big surprise. There are more outbreaks, but “we have more schools in session,” Ferrer said. “It looks pretty much like what we saw last August.”

“I’m not alarmed by these numbers,” Ferrer said. But, she said, it would be wise for people to take reasonable precautions, such as staying home when sick, washing their hands often and, for those at higher risk, putting masks back in. high traffic indoor areas. Ferrer also suggested that people wear masks in health care facilities and on public transportation.

With COVID-19 now far less threatening than at the start of the pandemic – thanks to effective vaccines and therapeutic drugs like Paxlovid, as well as years of natural immunity – health officials have reported that ‘Absent some sort of unforeseen disaster, the era of government-mandated universal mask mandates is long over. More than 18 months have passed since the last universal mask mandate ended.

“I’m really not focused on bringing masks back as a mandate,” Ferrer said. Face coverings are an important tool, but the pandemic has moved into a new phase where mask requirements only make sense in limited situations, such as on a construction site for a limited time to suppress an active outbreak, Ferrer said.

Government-mandated COVID-19 vaccination requirements have also ended, even for healthcare workers. In line with federal authorities ending the vaccine requirement for healthcare workers, Los Angeles County also ended its own local requirement last month.

The increase in coronavirus transmission levels comes just days before federal officials plan to authorize an updated COVID-19 vaccination, designed against a subvariant that was dominant earlier this year and is closely linked to the current dominant sub-lines.

The US Food and Drug Administration is expected to act in the coming days to authorize the new injections. Then the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention could act as early as Tuesday to offer recommendations on who should get the vaccine.

New vaccines could be available as soon as next Friday in Los Angeles County, Ferrer said.

Experts have urged people to be up to date on their vaccines, especially the elderly. Those who are still hospitalized with COVID-19 are usually elderly people who are not up to date with vaccinations.

The rise in coronavirus infections is likely linked to new, even more immune-boosting Omicron subvariants, as well as weakened immunity to the coronavirus, given that people received their last COVID booster shot. -19 a year ago or have not received a reminder. vaccination even longer.

This summer was the first since the start of the pandemic which, for many people, felt like the COVID-19 emergency was over. The Transportation Security Administration said the summer was the busiest travel season on record.

As outbreaks continue to be a problem, Los Angeles County work sites are still required to report clusters of three or more possibly connected coronavirus cases over a seven-day period to the Department of Public Health in within 24 hours of becoming aware of the group. If authorities determine that a workplace outbreak has occurred, they will dispatch a case manager to come up with a strategy to end the outbreak.

In Ventura County, schools and many businesses are no longer required to report suspected outbreaks to the local public health department, but authorities are encouraging them to do so.

Other illnesses are also circulating: In Ventura County, another football game was canceled last week by Nordhoff High School in Ojai after illnesses left the team short of players. Although a few people tested positive for COVID, most appeared to have “the flu or any other virus going around,” Nordhoff head football coach Dillon Lowen said.

“More than half the team” was absent, Lowen said. This prevented them from having enough time to train and prepare for the game.

“It was not a COVID problem. It was more of a player safety issue. … Even if we hadn’t had any cases of COVID, we would still have canceled the game, just because so many people were sick,” he said.