February 28, 2024 The Newspaper Serving LGBT Los Angeles

Rising Cases, New Strains, and Long COVID Risk: Stay Informed and Vaccinated for a Safer Winter

Urgent Alert: COVID-19 Surge Hits Los Angeles County – Take Action Now

By Dolores Quintana

Three weeks post-Thanksgiving, Los Angeles County is grappling with an escalation in COVID-19 transmission indicators, necessitating heightened precautions and an urgent call for updated vaccinations. With cases on the rise, the emergence of new variant strains, and the persistent risk of Long COVID, residents are urged to adopt common-sense measures to curb exposures, transmission, and severe illness.

This week, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (Public Health) reports a daily average of 430 new COVID-19 cases, marking an increase of 50 cases compared to the previous week. However, due to the prevalence of home tests, the results of which are not reported to Public Health, the actual number of cases in the community is likely higher than the official count.

Wastewater testing for SARS-CoV-2 concentrations provides a more comprehensive view of COVID transmission. Public Health reports a concentration increase to 38% compared to last year’s winter surge peak, up from 28% reported last week and 12% a month ago on Nov. 15.

COVID-positive hospitalizations have surged from 462 to 524 in the current reporting period. Factors such as holiday gatherings, increased travel, and more time spent indoors are believed to contribute to the transmission spike.

Public Health emphasizes the importance of timely vaccinations, particularly the updated COVID-19 vaccine for 2023-24. The CDC Health Advisory urges healthcare providers to administer influenza (flu), COVID-19, and RSV immunizations, given low vaccination rates and ongoing increases in respiratory disease activity.

Apart from shielding against severe illness and hospitalization, the COVID vaccine is highlighted as a defense against Long COVID. Recent survey results indicate that over one in five individuals in California with a COVID-19 infection experienced symptoms lasting three months or longer. Vaccination is proven to provide protection against this prolonged condition.

Recent weeks in Los Angeles County have seen a shift in the proportion of cases attributed to different strains, underscoring the evolving nature of COVID-19. The updated vaccine is formulated to provide protection against Omicron XBB strains currently in circulation.

Since early November, COVID-19 hospitalizations in Los Angeles County have steadily risen. Recent CDC data through Dec. 2 reveals an increase to 6.3 new COVID-19 hospitalizations per 100,000 people, compared to 4.8 the week prior. Emergency Department encounters classified as coronavirus-related have also risen to 4%, up from 3% a month ago.

The winter respiratory virus season potentially strains local healthcare systems if COVID-19, flu, and RSV transmission continue to rise. Updated COVID-19, flu, and RSV vaccines are emphasized as crucial in mitigating this burden.

A recent CDC advisory urges healthcare providers to engage in conversations with patients about getting vaccinated, tested, and using therapeutics. The flu vaccine, recommended for those 6 months and older, can be administered simultaneously with the COVID-19 vaccine. Additionally, specific recommendations for RSV vaccinations are provided based on age and pregnancy status.

Residents with vaccine-related inquiries or testing concerns can contact the Public Health Call Center at 1-833-540-0473, open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. The call center provides assistance in scheduling vaccination appointments, including in-home vaccinations for the homebound. Free telehealth services, including a no-cost prescription for Paxlovid, are also accessible through the call center for eligible individuals.

In the face of rising COVID-19 challenges, prompt and informed action is essential to safeguard the health and well-being of the community. Stay informed, take precautions, and ensure you are up-to-date with vaccinations to navigate this evolving landscape effectively.

in NEWS
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