L.A. County inches closer to 25,000 total COVID-19 deaths, posts 4,046 new infections

Another day of more than 30 confirmed deaths from COVID-19 in Los Angeles County came and went on Wednesday, Aug. 18, as local and federal officials began gearing up for booster shots among those who have been fully vaccinated and local venues geared up for a new mask mandate set to go into effect Thursday night.

Los Angeles County Public Health officials confirmed 34 new deaths and 4,046 new infections in the department’s daily update on Wednesday.

The county is now on the cusp of 25,000 deaths linked to COVID-19, with 24,967. A total of 1,359,672 are confirmed to have been infected.

A total of 1,790 people were in local hospitals with the virus, with 406 people in intensive care units. Most of those patients are battling the delta variant of the disease, which officials say continues to fuel widespread risk in the region, particularly among people who have not been vaccinated.

A total of 218 people experience homelessness have died during the pandemic — three more this month.

“People experiencing homelessness are at high risk of severe COVID-19 disease due to underlying health conditions, age, or both,” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, the county’s public health director in a statement accompanying a news release with the latest metrics. “As we partner with others to reach people experiencing homelessness that are not yet vaccinated, layering protection at programs serving this population is critical.”

The daily update landed as federal public health officials recommended booster shots for all Americans, a prospect that could become reality as soon as Sept. 20, they said.

The plan, as outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other health agencies, calls for an extra dose eight months after people get their second shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. The doses could begin the week of Sept. 20, and L.A. County will be no exception.

“Our plan is to protect the American people, to stay ahead of this virus,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said as the agency cited a raft of studies suggesting that the vaccines are losing ground while the highly contagious variant spreads.

The county over the weekend began offering third doses of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID vaccines to people with compromised immune systems. Health officials urged people to consult their doctors to confirm their eligibility for the third shot, which should be administered at least 28 days following the second dose.

In the meantime, officials continued to double down on masking and vaccination requirements in an effort contain spread. The Los Angeles City Council voted Wednesday, Aug. 18 to make vaccination a condition of employment for city workers by Oct. 20, unless they can show they have medical or religious reasons to be exempt.

And they continued to ready for an L.A. County masking health order at outdoor “mega events” such as sports venues and festivals set to go into effect Thursday night at 11:59 p.m.

The new order does not apply to theme parks or amusement parks, according to L.A. County Public Health officials. Universal Studios Hollywood and Six Flags Magic Mountain visitors won’t be required to wear masks outdoors under a new ordinance requiring face coverings at outdoor mega events as public health officials continue to combat the surging COVID-19 delta variant, theme park officials said.

California health officials Wednesday said they will expand the requirement for vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test for those attending large indoor events.

The state had already required either vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours to attend events of 5,000 people or more. Wednesday’s order, which takes effect Sept. 20, expands that to gatherings of 1,000 people or more, and requires proof of full vaccination rather than the “self attestation” of having been vaccinated that had been allowed.

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