LA County health officials urge vigilance ahead of Memorial Day weekend as COVID cases rise

Photo by Joshua Case on Unsplash

WITH cases and outbreaks remaining high and many opportunities over the Memorial Day Holiday to gather, Los Angeles County residents are being encouraged to layer in safety measures to prevent the spreading of COVID.

As summer vacation nears, the LA County Department of Health is also pleading with students, staff and their families to likewise protect themselves to further mitigate the risk of the virus in school settings.

The number of cases among students and staff has more than doubled in one month. For the week ending May 15, there were a total of 5,918 positive cases at schools across the county, of which 4,723 were among students and 1,195 among staff. A month prior, for the week ending April 17, there were 2,742 positive cases, of which 2,159 were among students and 583 among staff.

School-associated outbreaks, where there is documented transmission among students and staff, remain high. For the week ending May 21, there were 16 outbreaks. Large outbreaks at a small number of schools have been associated with proms, school events and performances, and field trips, with cases per outbreak ranging from 25-80 among students and staff.

While transmission in the community remains high, it is important to layer in additional protective measures, especially when gathering for end-of-school year events, to keep school communities as safe as possible. Public Health urges everyone to wear a well-fitting mask when indoors, especially at any indoor school or sporting events. Those attending large celebratory school events should test before attending, and if positive for COVID, remain home away from others.

With vaccinations providing the best protection against illness and hospitalizations, parents are urged to make sure that they and their children are up-to-date on their vaccinations and boosters. This week, there are 221 school vaccine clinics scheduled. These sites offer pediatric doses and boosters for children ages five to eleven, along with vaccines and boosters for older children and adults. Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved a single booster dose for children ages five through 11 years of age, at least five months after completing a primary series.

Additionally, with Memorial Day and the start of the summer travel season just around the corner, there are a few simple things that reduce the chance of getting or spreading COVID-19 while traveling. If you’re traveling domestically, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends that you get a COVID-19 test as close to the time of your departure as possible, regardless of your vaccination status. The test should be taken no more than three days before your departure.

The CDC also recommends that you test after travel if your trip involved situations with greater risk of exposure such as being in crowded places or events while not wearing a well[1]fitting mask or respirator. Since most travel involves spending time in transit hubs, testing after travel is recommended for everyone by Public Health. Please remember that, while in LA County, everyone is required to be masked on public transit and indoor public transit corridors including airport terminals and train and subway stations.

Students and staff who traveled or gathered with many other people during the holiday break are encouraged to test themselves before heading back to school next Tuesday. Many schools are distributing test kits to students this week to make it easier for students and staff to test.

“I send my deepest sympathies and wishes of peace and comfort to the many families who have lost a loved one from COVID-19,” said Barbara Ferrer, PhD, MPH, MEd, Director of Public Health. “While we recognize that many children who test positive experience mild illness, national trends are showing increases in cases and hospitalization rates for children and more concerns about long term impacts of even mild infection in children. We encourage parents, students, teachers, and staff, during this time of high transmission with the most infectious strains seen to date, to wear a mask when indoors and get vaccinated and boosted when eligible. For those who are asymptomatic and returning to school after an exposure to a known case, masking is required through Day 10 from the date of your last exposure, along with testing between days three and five. If we can all do our best to protect each other, and those who are more vulnerable to severe illness or death, we can safely celebrate the end of the school year and enjoy the beginning of summer.”

Public Health on Thursday, May 26 reported six additional deaths and 4,202 new positive cases. Of the six new deaths reported today, one was between the ages of 65-79 and four were aged 80 years or older. Of the six newly reported deaths, one had an underlying health condition. To date, the total number of deaths in L.A. County is 32,101.

Public Health has reported a total of 2,949,830 positive cases of COVID-19 across all areas of LA County. The positivity rate is 3.8%.

There are 410 people with COVID-19 currently hospitalized. Testing results are available for more than 11,983,725 individuals, with 22% of people testing positive.

Residents can schedule an appointment to get vaccinated at VaccinateLACounty.com and go to the How to Get Vaccinated webpage, or call the COVID-19 information line at (833) 540- 0473 between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. seven days a week.

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