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County Health Continues to Collect Detailed Data as COVID Wanes

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By Jorge Casuso

May 22, 2023 -- As coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and virus-related deaths drop to levels not seen since the pandemic began, LA County Health officials vow to continue the "robust collection" of "timely local data."

The data collection will be made more challenging with changes in federal COVID-19 data reporting after U.S. Emergency Declarations ended on May 11, Health officials said.

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LA County had already resorted to issuing weekly reports, instead of the daily press releases that began in March 2020, and ceased presenting data in a way that is easy to access, opting for a map-based dashboard.

"Timely local data will be used to identify trends and provide appropriate guidance and resources, giving residents the tools to make informed decisions about personal and community risk when needed," Health officials said in a press release Thursday.

"To help detect increases in transmissions as early as possible, Public Health monitors and reports weekly on COVID-19 case counts, wastewater levels, and the percent of COVID-related emergency department visits."

Health officials also track seven early alert signals that "indicate the possibility of increases in rates of transmission and/or increased illness severity."

These include metrics on outbreaks in skilled nursing facilities and settings serving the homeless, officials said.

The latest data released Thursday show reported weekly deaths dropped to 20, which "may reflect a data reporting issue" that could help explain the drop from 46 the previous week.

If accurate, it would mark the lowest weekly death toll since the first weeks of the coronavirus emergency, which was declared in March 2020.

As of last Tuesday, there were a total of 36,306 coronavirus-related deaths in LA County or an average of about 220 per week.

The 7-day average number of COVID hospitalizations was 222, down from 252 the previous week.

In Santa Monica, there have been 95 coronavirus cases confirmed over the past three weeks, the lowest weekly average since the start of the pandemic, according to County Health data.

That brings the total number of confirmed cases to 26,461 in the city of some 93,000. A total of 303 deaths have been reported, with three reported over the past month.

XBB.1.5 remains the dominant strain in Los Angeles County, accounting for 81 percent of sequenced specimens for the week ending April 22.

The second most dominant strains of Omnicron were XBB.1.9.1 and XBB.1.16, each accounting for 5 percent of sequenced specimens, Health officials said.

Worried that XBB.1.16 -- aka “Arcturus” -- is likely the more communicable" strain, Health officials asked residents to be aware of the symptoms, which include conjunctivitis or “pink eye,” when the first cases were reported last month.

"Efforts to provide resources for those who are at highest risk of severe illness from COVID-19 relies on our ability to have information that tracks changes in the virus, levels of community transmission, and the impact of COVID-19 among different groups," said Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer.

As of Thursday, there was a total of 3,743,266 confirmed COVID cases in LA County, which has a population of more than 10 million.

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