LOS ANGELES (CNS) — Los Angeles County has reinstated a mask-wearing requirement for staff and visitors at all licensed health care facilities in light of an upswing in coronavirus metrics, officials said Saturday.

The county recently entered the “medium” level of COVID-19 hospital admissions, as defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Over the past week in Los Angeles County, there have been notable, yet not unexpected, increases in COVID-19 reported cases, hospitalizations and deaths,” the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said in a statement. “While recent increases are significant, they remain considerably below last winter’s peak and common-sense protections are strongly recommended to help curb transmission and severe illness as the new year begins.”

The threshold for the CDC’s medium level is between 10 and 19.9 new COVID hospital admissions per 100,000 population over seven days. The CDC reported 10.5 new COVID hospital admissions per 100,000 people in Los Angeles County for the week ending Dec. 23.

“Based on the Los Angeles County Health Officer Order posted on December 27, 2023, when the COVID-19 hospital admission level in Los Angeles County meets or exceeds the CDC’s Medium Level, all healthcare personnel, regardless of COVID-19 and influenza vaccination status, in licensed health care facilities that provide inpatient care are required to mask while in contact with patients or working in patient-care areas,” the department’s statement said.

“In addition, all persons visiting a licensed health care facility that provides inpatient care are required to mask when around patients and while in patient-care areas. This will remain in effect until the COVID-19 hospital admission level in Los Angeles County is below the CDC’s Medium Level for at least 14 consecutive days.”

There were 609 COVID-positive patients in LA County hospitals as of Dec. 23, according to state data. That’s up from 259 on Nov. 1, but lower than at this time last year, when the number was over 1,200. Some of those patients were admitted for other reasons and discovered they had COVID after being tested at the hospitals.

Since last week, the reported daily average of COVID-19 cases in the county has increased by more than 25%, from 495 to 621, according to the health department. Officials said the number represents an undercount due to the large number of home test results for COVID-19 that are not reported.

The department also reported a daily average of five COVID-related deaths, an increase from two earlier this month on Dec. 6.

Health officials have said that the great majority of people who die with COVID-19 have pre-existing conditions such as diabetes, heart disease or hypertension.

A week ago, the health department said it was possible that at least part of the local increase in transmission is driven by new COVID-19 strains gaining dominance in Los Angeles County, including JN.1, a newly emerging strain descended from BA.2.86, an Omicron lineage.

JN.1 does not, however, appear to be resulting in more severe cases of COVID-19, officials said.

To protect against COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses circulating this holiday season, health experts recommend the following common-sense precautions:

– Wash hands often or use hand sanitizer, especially before eating, after sneezing or coughing, or when in public places.

– Consider wearing a well-fitted, high-quality mask in crowded indoor spaces, travel hubs or poorly ventilated spaces.

– Stay home if you have any symptoms of illness, including coughing, sneezing, a fever or sore throat, and consider talking with friends and family so they know to be cautious about gathering if they show signs of infection.

Copyright © 2023 by City News Service, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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