The rapid growth of the more transmissible BA.2 variant of Covid-19 is continuing in Los Angeles County. As of March 12, the latest date for which data is available, 32% of local positive Covid tests that underwent laboratory sequencing turned out to be the result of BA.2.
During the week ending March 5, 16.7% of sequenced cases were found to be BA.2, meaning that the variant’s share of new cases very nearly doubled in just 7 days. The final week of February, BA.2 accounted for 6.3% of new cases, which means that the variant’s share of infections more than doubled the week before, also.
Given the continued rapid spread of BA.2 in other regions where it took root earlier – such as the UK, South Africa, Singapore, India and the Northeast United States – it’s likely that in the 2 weeks since the newest numbers were tallied it has become dominant in LA, as well.
In fact, this week’s CDC data map shows that’s the case in the three state region comprised of California, Nevada and Arizona. See graphic below.
The spread of the highly-infectious variant, however, has not yet been translated into an overall rise in virus-related hospitalizations in US Health officials say that is likely attributable to relatively high numbers of Americans who are now vaccinated.
LA Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said today that, as of Sunday, only about 3% of visits to hospital emergency departments in the county are Covid-related. That’s a long, long way from the bad old days at the end of 2021.
“Despite the BA.2 increases that we’re starting to see, they’re not resulting yet in increases in Covid-19 emergency department visits,” she said.
The county is, however, seeing a leveling off of case number declines that have marked the past several weeks, with the county now averaging about 660 cases per day.
“The rate of decline has been slower, and this week we’re not seeing any declines in the cases,” Ferrer said.
She added that it’s too early to call that leveling-off a “concern,” but she termed it “notable.”
“At some point we knew it was likely we were going to stop declining,” Ferrer said. “We know there’s still transmission… Personally, I wish we were at a lower level when we’re doing this plateauing, but we’ve seen a significant decrease, and that’s the good news.”
She also noted that the slowing of the decline could be related to the recent lifting of Covid-related resrictions, such as indoor masking requirements. The county on Friday, along with the state, will lift the vaccination and negative test verification requirements at indoor mega events, such as sporting events and concerts.
“Every single time we have reduced the restrictions or levels of protection that are required, we have always seen an uptick (in cases),” Ferrer observed. “The slowing of the decline can also be seen in some ways as an uptick.”
The county on Thursday reported 784 new Covid cases, along with 16 additional virus-related deaths.
The average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus was 1.1% as of Thursday, up from the constant 0.7% rate from the past few weeks. The rate was 0.9% on Wednesday.
The number of Covid-positive patients in county hospitals fell to 308 on Thursday, down from 325 on Wednesday. The number of those patients being treated in intensive care was 47, down from 51 a day earlier.
According to County statistics, 71% of all county residents were fully vaccinated. However, only 31% of children aged 5-11 have been fully vaccinated, the lowest rate of any age group.
City News Service contributed to this report.