Los Angeles Covid Test Positivity Up 25% In The Past Week As Concerns About Winter Wave Grow

Temperatures have cooled drastically in Los Angeles over the past few days, with unseasonable rain and cold nights conjuring up thoughts of the coming holidays and, as has been the case the past two years, fears of a coming Covid wave.

“We’re really at a point that may be a crossroads here. As we’re entering into the cooler months, we are starting to see the emergence of sublineage variants of omicron,” White House advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said on the Conversations on Health Care radio show yesterday.

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In fact, across the country, the long-dominant BA.5 variant no longer holds that distinction. It is being pushed out by a rogue’s gallery of new strains including BQ1.1, BQ1, BA4.6 and BF.7, the combined proportions of which are now larger than BA.5 for the first time in months.

Variant proportions over time, courtesy CDC
Variant proportions over time, courtesy CDC

For the past month, LA County has been noting signals that the local case rate may no longer be declining. The steady drop observed since July appeared to plateau in mid-October — and now indicators look to be headed upward.

This week, L.A. County is reporting a nearly 10% increase in the 7-day-average number of cases from one week ago. Today, L.A. County Public Health reported 7 additional deaths and 1,447 new positive cases. That number of new cases, while certainly an undercount, is the highest single day tally in weeks.

The 7-day average test positivity rate has risen more than 25% in the past week, to 5% today. That’s quite a jump in a number that is averaged over the course of a week to smooth out data hiccups.

Los Angeles County Department of Public Health
Los Angeles County Department of Public Health

While Omicron BA.5 continues to be the dominant subvariant, each week it is accounting for a smaller proportion of samples in L.A. As of the week ending Oct. 15, it accounted for about 72% of sequenced specimens.  BF.7, a descendant of BA.5, makes up the second largest proportion of cases sequenced at 7.8%.

Recently, county officials added two additional descendant strains of BA.5 to weekly variant reporting: BQ.1 and BQ.1.1. Each of these sublineages account for 3.4% of sequenced specimens for the week ending October 15. There are reports that BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 have some growth advantages over some of the other sublineages, and they may begin to increase here as well.

Over the past seven days, the average number of daily Covid-positive patients in L.A. County hospitals increased slightly to 403. The week before, the average daily Covid-positive patients per day was 389.

Deaths, which typically lag hospitalizations by several weeks, have decreased slightly and they are at an average of 8 deaths reported each day this past week.

“With recent unusually high levels of flu and other respiratory diseases, there are signs the county could be headed toward a Covid surge this fall and winter,” said County Director of Public Health Barbara Ferrer.

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