With vaccine supplies ramping up and the holiday season in the rearview, officials in Los Angeles County and around the country struck an optimistic note about the declining rates of new cases, deaths and hospitalizations.
(CN) — A press conference in Los Angeles painted a rosy picture that is mirrored all around the country — the Covid-19 pandemic is weakening.
Barbara Ferrer, the director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, said hospitalizations, deaths and new case numbers are all waning, a good sign for what had previously been the epicenter of the deadly winter surge in the coronavirus.
Los Angeles County reported 93 deaths, which marked the first time since early December that the daily death count dipped below 100.
“It’s important to realize that case numbers and deaths can be down on Mondays due to reporting issues,” Ferrer said.
Nevertheless, a clear and unmistakable trend shows the virus may finally be on the retreat.
The case count peaked in Los Angeles around Jan. 15, approximately two weeks after the Christmas holiday season, but the seven-day average has declined 77% since then. Nationwide, the reported case count fell below 100,000 for the first time in 2021.
Hospitalizations in Los Angeles have gradually but steadily declined, falling 42% since mid-January. Even deaths, which are a lagging indicator, have dropped by 45%.
“Still we are seeing too many days with death counts over 200,” Ferrer said.
But there is a glimmer of hope for officials in Los Angeles and elsewhere around the country, as vaccination supply continues to ramp up and the number of people vaccinated means the disease will have a harder time spreading as the spring approaches.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis said more mass-vaccination sites are becoming operational and more are in the pipeline.
“We’ve seen major improvements statewide,” Holis said. “We’ve tripled the vaccination rate since mid-January and California is now in the middle of states.”
In Los Angeles County, more than 1 million people have been vaccinated, using 82% of the supply. Statewide, more than 4.7 million Californians have received at least their first round of the shot.
“Supply and capacity will improve even more in the coming weeks,” Holis said.
The pace of vaccination is picking up across the country, as nearly 10% of Americans have at least one shot, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — amounting to around 42 million doses given. Alaska leads the country with about 15% of its population having been given at least a shot.
The Biden administration, which promised 100 million doses distributed in its first 100 days, is well within range to meet the goal. About 1.4 million people receive vaccinations daily at the current rate.
Supply is expected to increase after the Federal Drug Administration grants Johnson & Johnson emergency authorization for its single-dose vaccine, a move that is expected any day.
Solis said more will need to be done in Los Angeles County to make sure those hardest hit by the virus in minority communities have access to vaccines. Furthermore, low-income residents may have difficulties reaching some of the mass-vaccination sites being constructed at baseball and football stadiums.
“Low-income communities may have trouble with transportation and we may have to meet them where they are,” Solis said.
While goods news gives reason for optimism, case counts, deaths and hospitalizations are still well above levels recorded last spring and summer.
“Hospitals are still crowded and we have limited ICU capacity,” Ferrer said.
She also cautioned residents about letting relaxing their vigilance, saying new and more transmissible variants of the disease could lead to higher infection rates if people don’t honor social distancing protocols.
“The variants are concerning,” Ferrer said. “If we let our guards down the new more infectious strains could become dominant.”