As US emergency declarations end, access to COVID protections continues for LA County residents

As the U.S. Public Health Emergency and the National Emergency Declaration for COVID-19 ended this month, following the announcement by the World Health Organization (WHO) that COVID-19 is no longer considered a global public health emergency, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health is reminding residents of access to resources they need to keep community transmission low.

While the end of the federal states of emergency signals a new phase in the pandemic, COVID-19 continues to be one of the leading causes of death in Los Angeles County, requiring ongoing efforts to reduce severe illness through readily available vaccinations, testing and treatment.

Fortunately, Los Angeles County residents will see few immediate changes in their access to preventative resources. The federal government will continue to make its supply of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, Paxlovid and Molnupiravir, available to residents at no cost regardless of a person’s insurance coverage.

In California, new laws require insurance plans, including Medicare or Medi-Cal, to cover the cost of vaccines, testing and Paxlovid for COVID-19 treatment through Nov. 11, 2023. Exact coverage may vary depending on an individual’s insurance plan.

Residents without insurance may receive free at-home test kits or PCR tests for COVID-19 at public health clinics and vaccination sites, at community health centers or purchase tests from a local retailer. People who are uninsured can visit to see if they qualify for Medi-Cal or Covered California coverage.

Public Health’s Call Center will continue to operate, connecting eligible residents to free telehealth, homebound vaccination appointments, COVID-19 information and other resources. Residents are encouraged to call 1-833-540-0473, available daily between 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., to access these services.

The 7-day average number of COVID hospitalizations is 252 this week, similar to the 266 reported last week. Reported weekly deaths also remained stable at 46 deaths this week; this is slightly less than the 51 deaths reported last week.

“To those in Los Angeles County who have lost a loved one to COVID-19, I offer my sincere condolences and hope you find comfort,” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, Ph.D., M.P.H., M.Ed., Director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. “We are grateful that Los Angeles County is in a better place and that emergency declarations are no longer needed. I am aware that each day thousands of people throughout Los Angeles County continue to be impacted by COVID-19, whether they need to miss work due to illness, require hospital care, or are experiencing the effects of long COVID. Public Health remains committed to work that reduces the chance of transmission and ensures the county remains prepared for the likelihood of periodic changes in transmission. We’re continuing our work to make sure there are no barriers for anyone wishing to access life-saving vaccines, therapeutics and tests, especially for those who are under insured or uninsured.”

Public Health will continue to sequence COVID-19 variants and strains as a part of its efforts to monitor COVID-19. XBB.1.5 remains the dominant strain in Los Angeles County accounting for 83% of sequenced specimens for the week ending April 15, 2023. The second most dominant strain was XBB.1.9.1, accounting for 7% of sequenced specimens. LA County has had 13 confirmed cases of XBB.1.16 and data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that XBB.1.16 makes up 10% of cases in California and surrounding states.

CDC is retiring the COVID-19 Community Levels and will be replacing them with hospitalization metrics. Los Angeles County will closely monitor hospitalization data in alignment with CDC, along with a wide variety of additional metrics available on its website.

As of Tuesday, May 9, there have been a total of 36,291 deaths in Los Angeles County. (AJPress)


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