Omicron unlikely to trigger lockdown in Los Angeles County

LOS ANGELES, CA – Los Angeles County health officials expect the newly identified Omicron version of COVID-19 to affect Los Angeles, but they don’t expect the city to be on lockdown as a result.

The combination of a vaccine and existing masking measures may be enough to avert a catastrophic boom. Still, some changes related to testing, quarantining and nursing home visits may be in the works, said Barbara Ferrer, director of the Los Angeles County Public Health Department.

At the federal level, an advisory committee voted Tuesday to recommend that the government authorize the use of Merck’s antiviral pill for severe coronavirus cases, and ask the FDA later this month the more highly prolific antiviral pill by Pfizer. expected to authorize. Officials hope that better treatment and vaccination rates will position the country for the Omicron variant.

In Los Angeles, there are no plans to change the health official’s order to tighten infection control rules, she said. Ferrer told the county board of supervisors that the county already has “really sensible precautions,” especially requiring people to wear masks indoors and at large outdoor gatherings. She said that if the county did not already have that mandate, “we would suggest it” in response to the Omicron version, which was first identified in South Africa and has now spread to at least 16 countries. It is not yet detected in the United States, but health officials believe it is already present.

Still, the county could change the rules for visitation and testing and skilled nursing centers — places that traditionally see more outbreaks and higher death rates because of the vulnerability of patients. Such a change would likely happen if Omron proves to be resistant to current COVID vaccines.

Additionally, quarantine requirements for people exposed to the coronavirus could be increased regardless of vaccination status. County health officials began disseminating information to health care providers about the risks of international travel and protocols for submitting samples to be tested for the new mutation.

“We are taking steps to prepare our county, starting with providing residents and our partners with updated information on Omicron and precautionary safety measures,” Ferrer told the board. “Today, LA County is sending an advisory to all of our health care providers about assessing the risk associated with travel and instructions for submitting samples for sequencing (to identify the variant).”

She said the county is also working with the state to “provide information and a rapid testing option for international travelers at LAX”, and to ensure that all arrivals from Omicron-affected countries in South Africa are aware of federal requirements for quarantine and testing. ,

“While we do not know for certain the impact of Omicron, we are clear that there are immediate action steps we can each take to protect each other and continue to slow transmission of COVID-19,” he said. “The most effective tools are vaccines.”

Ferrer said he sympathizes with residents eager to end health regulations related to the pandemic, and fears that come with news of another COVID-19 version that could increase mask-wearing and other precautions. .

“We hate wearing our masks. We hate the rules. We hate everything about this pandemic,” Ferrer told the board. “And we’re with everyone on that. It’s been an extraordinarily long and challenging time, and people have a right to feel tired.

“I think the best way to put all of this into perspective is that we have a lot more powerful tools than we did last year. And so when we’re tired, just as a reminder, ( During the last winter boom, we neither had very rapid tests available, nor did we have vaccines available, nor did we have any good enough potential for targeted therapeutics for COVID on the immediate horizon. That is all. “

In the wake of Omicron, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday extended its vaccine recommendation, urging everyone age 18 and older to get a booster shot. The CDC previously recommended the shots for people age 50 and older, and suggested it only for young adults.

According to the most recent data, 82.5% of Los Angeles County residents 12 and over have received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine, and 74% are fully vaccinated. Of the county’s total population of 10.3 million people, 71% received at least one dose, and 63% were fully vaccinated.

Of the approximately 5.99 million residents who were fully vaccinated by November 16, 75,249 subsequently tested positive for the virus, a rate of 1.26%, Ferrer said. Of the vaccinated population, 2,528 have been hospitalized, at a rate of 0.042%, and 422 have died, at a rate of 0.007%.

The county reported another 28 COVID deaths on Tuesday, raising the virus-related death toll to 27,166. Another 843 new cases were also reported, giving the county a cumulative epidemic total of 1,527,132.

There were 562 COVID-19 positive patients in county hospitals as of Tuesday, down slightly from 569 on Monday, according to state data. The number of patients in intensive care stood at 165, up from 159 the day before.

The rolling average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus in the county was 2.9% on Tuesday, up from last week’s daily rate of about 1%. County health officials attributed the increase to a significant drop in overall testing due to the closure of schools for the holidays. Many schools make weekly COVID tests mandatory for students and staff.

City News Service and Patch Staff Page Austin contributed to this report.

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