L.A. seeing far much less important sickness amid Omicron surge


Regardless of an unprecedented spike in instances fueled by the Omicron variant, Los Angeles County hospitals are seeing far fewer critically in poor health coronavirus-positive sufferers than they did final winter.

Officers emphasize that the healthcare system nonetheless faces severe challenges as a result of so many individuals are being contaminated, and it’s unclear how shut the Omicron wave is to peaking. L.A. County ambulance companies and hospitals are also contending with coronavirus-related staffing shortages as extra of their staff turn into contaminated.

However the early knowledge appear to replicate the expertise elsewhere — that Omicron, whereas much more transmissible than the beforehand dominant Delta variant, additionally tends to trigger much less extreme signs, particularly in those that have been vaccinated and boosted.

This week marked the one-year anniversary of essentially the most troublesome interval of the pandemic domestically, when the variety of COVID-19 sufferers hospitalized in L.A. County soared to its all-time excessive: 8,098, on Jan. 5. The variety of individuals in intensive care peaked at 1,731 three days later, at a time when hospital morgues have been overflowing.

As of Thursday, there have been 2,902 coronavirus-positive sufferers in L.A. County hospitals, together with 391 in intensive care. And whereas coronavirus-positive hospital admissions are nonetheless trending upward, there are different indicators that the Omicron wave will look totally different from people who got here earlier than.

The general variety of individuals admitted into hospitals in L.A. County for all causes — COVID and in any other case — has really remained steady not too long ago. Throughout final winter’s surge, greater than 16,000 individuals have been hospitalized for all causes. This winter, that determine has been hovering round 13,000, in line with knowledge introduced by county Public Well being Director Barbara Ferrer.

“Now, this could change, clearly. Hospitalizations are a lagging indicator. And as instances go up, shortly afterwards, we begin seeing the will increase in hospitalizations,” Ferrer mentioned throughout a briefing Thursday. “However I do wish to word that [this winter] we haven’t seen the identical rise we noticed at first of the winter surge final 12 months.”

And, although the variety of hospitalized sufferers testing optimistic for the coronavirus has risen shortly not too long ago, COVID-19 sufferers are nonetheless occupying a comparatively low share of the county’s intensive care beds.

At present, about 7% of L.A. County’s complete staffed ICU beds are taken up by COVID-19 sufferers. In the course of the summer time Delta wave, 15% of ICU beds have been utilized by COVID sufferers, and final winter, that share was greater than 50%.

As well as, many coronavirus-positive sufferers are in search of hospital take care of non-COVID causes, corresponding to for a hip alternative, coronary heart surgical procedure or most cancers remedy, Ferrer mentioned, and their coronavirus diagnoses have been confirmed solely as a result of hospitals require incoming sufferers to be examined.

In early November — earlier than Omicron swept around the globe and Delta was nonetheless dominant — 75% of coronavirus-positive sufferers countywide have been within the hospital for COVID-related medical points, Ferrer mentioned.

However by late December, Ferrer estimated the identical was true for under 45% of coronavirus-positive hospitalized sufferers. Meaning a majority of coronavirus-positive sufferers at the moment are within the hospital for causes unrelated to COVID, “and would probably have been hospitalized regardless” of their coronavirus an infection, in line with Ferrer.

“If you’ve acquired plenty of group transmission, you’re going to have extra individuals testing optimistic, who’re asymptomatic for COVID sickness, however on this case getting hospitalized for one thing else,” she mentioned.

Nonetheless, it’s vital to notice that coronavirus-positive sufferers are difficult to deal with, even when they’re within the hospital for different causes.

“Individuals who check optimistic for COVID require resource-intensive, transmission-based precautions, together with isolation rooms, cohorted employees and private protecting tools, all of which add a very excessive burden,” Ferrer mentioned.

The truth that there are fewer critically in poor health COVID-19 sufferers now than throughout earlier waves is probably going attributable to plenty of elements, together with the sheer variety of residents who’re both vaccinated or have prior publicity to the virus.

In L.A. County, 75% of residents of all ages have acquired not less than one dose of vaccine, and 67% are totally vaccinated. About one-quarter of the county’s residents have additionally acquired a booster dose.

One other probably clarification is that Omicron seems to be much less prone to infect the lungs. The variant is seemingly extra contagious in the higher airways, which is of much less concern for adults however can pose issues for very younger kids.

Whereas it’s milder on the entire, Omicron is so contagious that staffing shortages are, not less than in some locations, worse now than in earlier surges.

This week, L.A. County Assistant Fireplace Chief Brian Bennett mentioned ambulance firms have been so hobbled by infections — with possibly half of their workforce unavailable for coronavirus-related causes — that firefighters at instances had to make use of fireplace vans to move sufferers.

“That is sort of unprecedented,” Bennett mentioned in a briefing to the Carson Metropolis Council this week. For individuals with delicate points, firefighters are “encouraging the residents to both discover a non-public car or different strategies to get to the hospital in order that we are able to save these ambulances for the important sufferers.”

The Los Angeles Fireplace Division can be seeing excessive numbers of firefighters unable to work as a result of coronavirus, Chief Ralph Terrazas mentioned at a briefing. As of Wednesday, 299 firefighters have been unable to work as a result of coronavirus, Terrazas mentioned. Just some weeks in the past, that quantity was 24.

“It’s the very best we’ve seen at anybody time,” Terrazas mentioned of the Fireplace Division, which has almost 3,800 staff. The division is canceling day without work to take care of each day staffing, he added.

L.A. County officers additionally say 911 response instances have worsened, and ambulances are going through delays in dropping off sufferers at hospitals.

The Omicron variant, which now contains greater than 85% of analyzed instances in L.A. County, is well the coronavirus’ most contagious pressure but — two to 4 instances as transmissible because the Delta variant.

And that’s infecting much more individuals concurrently.

On Thursday, L.A. County set yet one more document for each day reported coronavirus instances, with greater than 37,000. In the course of the peak of final winter’s surge, about 16,000 instances have been being reported a day over a weekly interval.

“When you have a ton of transmission like we have now now, it impacts all people’s workforce. All people’s short-staffed … and definitely, hospitals and healthcare suppliers are going through staffing points,” Ferrer mentioned.

“In order that’s the actual distinction between what we have now now and what we had, for instance, after we had the Delta surge — the place we really had plenty of sufferers who wanted hospital care, however we didn’t have this raging charge of an infection that was actually making it tremendous laborious for there to be sufficient employees to take care of individuals.”

Whereas breakthrough infections amongst vaccinated and boosted individuals are turning into extra frequent due to Omicron, unvaccinated individuals are nonetheless much more prone to be contaminated. For the week that ended on Christmas Day, for each 100,000 unvaccinated individuals in L.A. County, 991 individuals have been confirmed to have the coronavirus.

For each 100,000 individuals who have been totally vaccinated, however not but boosted, there have been 588 new coronavirus instances. And for each 100,000 who had gotten their booster shot, there have been 254 new coronavirus instances that week.

Meaning unvaccinated county residents have been 4 instances extra prone to report a coronavirus an infection in contrast with vaccinated individuals who acquired their booster shot.

Unvaccinated L.A. County residents have been additionally 9 instances as probably as vaccinated-but-unboosted individuals to wish hospitalization. In contrast with boosted individuals, they have been 38 instances extra probably.

Coronavirus case charges have risen dramatically amongst all racial and ethnic teams in L.A. County and are highest amongst Black residents. For the 14-day interval that ended Dec. 30, there have been 1,558 new coronavirus instances per 100,000 Black residents. The comparable charges have been 1,132 for white residents, 977 for Asian People and 947 for Latinos.

Holly Mitchell, the chair of the L.A. County Board of Supervisors, mentioned the excessive case charges amongst Black residents are reflective of the group’s decrease vaccination charge.

“Therefore, my insistence, my fixed, vigilant encouragement for individuals to be vaccinated,” Mitchell mentioned. “Getting vaccinated definitely will convey our numbers down by way of hospitalization, severity of sickness and, in the end, demise.”

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