8 February 2021: COVID-19 Update in Los Angeles County


Having spent the last two months functioning as the country’s COVID-19 epicenter, cases in Los Angeles are declining rapidly (Figure 1). But the difficulty with interpreting this graph is that our maximum case load (which plateaued at the 125-135 new daily cases per 100,000 for 5 weeks!) was so high that it dwarfs the remainder of the graph.

To provide some perspective, our current rate of 39.6 new daily cases per 100,000 population is still above our mid-summer surge. It is 6 times higher than our next risk tier down (need to be below 7 new daily cases per 100,000 to drop a tier). Even 7 cases per 100,000 is considered ‘wide community spread’ and rigorous test, trace and isolate programs should be implemented (LA County Health Department is too overwhelmed to manage such a program).

Deaths too are decreasing (Figure 2) now 50% of the 1/12/2021 peak. This is welcome news.

I was recently asked on Twitter to predict where I thought we would be in a few weeks. I do think that cases will begin to decline to the 7 new cases per 100,000 range. However, we have not been able as a County to decrease below this threshold level. Now with the new circulating variants such as B.1.1.7 and a stalled vaccine program (only 2nd doses are being given this week so no new effective population immunity will be established), I think that we will see a rise in cases again to the 30-40 range. We have now had multiple instances of COVID-19 smoldering at low(ish) community transmission rates which then flare into an oubreak surge. There is no reason to think that this will not happen again.

But hopefully never again above 100.

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