LA County residents returning to school, work urged to test for COVID, mask up

As schools prepare to reopen after winter break and more people go back to work, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (Public Health) is recommending that returning students and workers test for COVID-19 and wear a mask for at least 10 days to prevent a spike in transmission.

Public Health officials are asking for the community’s help in reducing the chances of another post-holiday surge and limiting the spread of new COVID-19 strains that could gain dominance in Los Angeles County.

An increase in infection rates would disproportionately affect people over 50 and people with preexisting medical conditions or who are immunocompromised. All three groups are at higher risk for serious illness and death from COVID-19.

Los Angeles County currently remains in the Medium Community Level, based on its case and hospitalization rates. As people return to school and work after the winter holiday, they may unintentionally expose others to the disease, increasing outbreaks. It can take up to 10 days for a person who has COVID-19 to test positive or display symptoms of infection.

To limit the post-holiday spread of infection, county residents should test before going back to school or work and upon returning, wear a well-fitting, high-filtration mask indoors for at least 10 days, in addition to continuing to mask in indoor public spaces.

Wearing a mask during the 10-day incubation period for COVID-19 can slow transmission of the virus, minimize disruptions to work and learning, protect the people who are most vulnerable, and help make sure hospitals do not become overwhelmed.

In the past, as new COVID-19 strains have gained dominance, as XBB.1.5 is doing in many parts of the United States, there has been a spike in transmission, resulting in increased hospitalizations and deaths, especially among older people.

Older Los Angeles County residents remain the most vulnerable for hospitalization and deaths compared to other age groups.  People age 50 and older accounted for the highest rates of cases, hospitalizations and deaths in Los Angeles County for the 30-day period that ended Dec. 28.  The rates increase with age. Residents who are 80-years-old and older, for example, are three times more likely to be hospitalized and five times more likely to die from COVID-19.  Residents ages 65-79 were three times more likely to be hospitalized and six times likely to die than residents ages 50-64. Further, people ages 50-64 were more than five times likely to die than people ages 30-49.

In Los Angeles County, BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 continue to be the dominant COVID-19 strains. However, XBB.1.5 is increasing in the United States, responsible for about 40% of cases nationally and an estimated 9% of COVID cases in California, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Given the rise of XBB.1.5 in other parts of the country, we expect we may start to see increases in XBB.1.5 in LA County as well

To keep safe and safeguard others, Los Angeles County residents should stay up to date on all vaccines, wash their hands, wear a mask indoors and in very crowded outdoor spaces, stay home when sick and seek treatment as soon as they have symptoms.

For information on how to access vaccinations and treatment in Los Angeles County:

Vaccinations:  Primary series vaccinations, updated bivalent boosters, and flu vaccines are readily available at Public Health sites, pharmacies, and other locations across the county. Seniors and residents who can’t easily leave their home may arrange for at-home vaccinations or transportation to a vaccination center by calling Public Health telehealth services at (833) 540-0473, seven days a week, from 8:00 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Residents also may visit to find nearby vaccination sites, request a mobile vaccination team for a worksite or community event, or an in-home visit if someone is homebound.

Treatment: If a person tests positive for COVID-19 and has symptoms, such as fever, coughing, sneezing, unusual fatigue or muscle aches, oral antiviral medications are available by prescription. Medicines, such as Paxlovid, should be taken within five days of symptom onset to reduce the risk of hospitalization. To get a prescription, contact a health care provider or access telehealth services by calling (833) 540-0473, seven days a week, from 8:00 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Insurance is not required, and callers may be assisted in multiple languages, regardless of immigration status.

Test-to-treat sites, where tests and prescriptions for medications are located at one site, are also available in Los Angeles County. To find a site, or for more information, visit

“I offer my condolences to those who have lost a loved one to COVID-19. I know the pain is felt deeply and I hope you find peace,” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, PhD, MPH, MEd, Director of Public Health. “With XBB.1.5 rising across the country, I want to be aware that very soon we could see the new strain become more dominant here in LA County. I hope everyone will take action to help minimize the impact, especially knowing it will be felt most by those vulnerable to severe illness. Every day I see examples of how people in LA County care for others and this is one more way to do so. We have learned a lot over the past few years and it is important that we all put the knowledge to use to help protect our community.”

LA County continues to report a significant number of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.

The 7-day average case count in the county is 2,111, a nearly 11% decrease from one week ago when the 7-day average of 2,359 cases was reported.

And over the past seven days, the average number of daily COVID-positive patients in LA County hospitals is 1247, nearly the same as last week when the average number of COVID-positive patients per day was 1207.

The county is currently reporting an average of 20 deaths per day, about a 20% increase from the average of 16 deaths reported per day a week ago.

Public Health reported 24 additional deaths and 2,101 new positive cases.

To date, the total number of deaths in L.A. County is 34,807. There are 1,212 people with COVID-19 currently hospitalized. (AJPress)

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