Long Beach edged closer to the “high” COVID-19 transmission tier this week, according to Department of Health and Human Services data, with the city’s hospitalizations metrics nearing the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s threshold.
Long Beach’s average weekly hospitalization rate — a key metric used to determine community spread — has steadily increased over the past several weeks. The city is not considering reinstating a universal indoor mask mandate at this time, health officials said, though that could change as the situation dictates.
“Cases have been leveling off recently,” health department spokeswoman Jennifer Epstein Rice in a Friday, July 29, email, “and we continue to watch not only cases but also hospitalizations.”
There were 1,911 new coronavirus cases confirmed in Long Beach over the last week, a slight decrease from the week prior. The city has reported 4,116 new cases the past two weeks combined — bringing the total since the pandemic began to 144,149, according to city data, as of Thursday, July 28. The data was updated Friday.
The city’s average daily case rate, the data shows, also decreased. That metric hit 31.2 per 100,000 people this week, down from 33.9 last week. Long Beach’s test positivity rate, as of Thursday, was nearly 18%.
But the CDC uses three other metrics to determine a city’s community transmission level: new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents over the past seven days, new COVID-19 hospitalizations per 100,000 people over the past seven days, and the percent of staffed inpatient hospital beds occupied by COVID-19 patients.
And despite the slight dip in reported infections this week, Long Beach’s average seven-day case rate has well exceeded the CDC’s 200 per 100,000 resident threshold for several weeks. The city’s average weekly COVID-19 cases totaled 447.1 per 100,000, Epstein Rice said.
Because of that, the city would hit high transmission if either of the latter two metrics hit 10 per 100,000 or 10%, respectively.
Health officials have long cited the two hospitalization metrics as the most crucial in determining a surge’s real-world impact, particularly on the health care system, which can be strained by even a slight surge in COVID-19 patients, according to the CDC.
Two weeks ago, Los Angeles County’s transmission level was elevated to the “high” tier because of its hospitalization rate. The county Department of Public Health considered reinstating a universal indoor mask mandate, but opted to delay that on July 28, citing a dip in average weekly hospitalizations — and a potential move back into ‘medium’ transmission.
Long Beach’s average hospitalizations appear to be trending the opposite direction, as of Thursday.
The city reported 9.2 weekly COVID-19-related hospitalizations per 100,000 people, as of Thursday — up from 7.9 the week before.
If that number hits or exceeds 10 per 100,000 residents, Long Beach would enter ‘high’ community spread.
Should Long Beach remain in high transmission for a period of two weeks or more, the health department could reconsider an updated indoor mask mandate citywide, though it’s unclear if it would.
The 7.2% of Long Beach’s hospital beds currently occupied by COVID-19-positive patients is still below the 10% threshold for high transmission — though that doesn’t matter if new admissions hit 10.
The total number of Long Beach residents in hospitals with COVID-19, meanwhile, shot up to 42 this week — far outpacing the 28 reported July 22. The number of COVID-19-positive patients in Long Beach area hospitals, however, has remained at 38 for two months.
The city also reported five new coronavirus-related deaths this week — down from seven the week prior. The 12 Long Beach residents who have died from the virus in the past two weeks combined brought the citywide total since the pandemic began to 1,304.
While the Long Beach health department is not yet considering changes to its health orders, Epstein Rice strongly encouraged residents to practice “common sense” measures, including masking indoors, and testing before and after large social gatherings.
Another, more significant way to protect yourself from the virus is by being vaccinated — and the city’s options are about to expand.
Long Beach will soon offer its residents a new COVID-19 vaccine, the health department announced on Friday.
The Food and Drug Administration approved the protein-based Novavax shot on July 13. That immunization is not mRNA based like the existing Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines — but is still administered in a two-dose series.
“The technology used in Novavax has been widely used in FDA-approved vaccines for decades,” a health department press release said. “Additionally, Novavax offers an alternative for those who may be allergic to the mRNA vaccines.”
The new shot will be available to Long Beach residents at least 18 years old beginning Monday, Aug. 1, at city-run vaccine clinics. Novavax will not be listed as on option on the state’s MyTurn website until Aug. 30, the city said.
“The Health Department continues to urge everyone to get vaccinated and boosted when eligible,” the release said, “as it remains the single best way to protect yourself and those around you against COVID-19.”
But in Long Beach, COVID-19 vaccinations have remained largely unchanged for weeks — with each age group’s numbers only marginally increasing.
About 70% of all residents had been fully vaccinated, with about 77% having received at least one dose, according to Thursday’s data. Another 37% had received a booster shot.
And 81% of all Long Beach adults were fully vaccinated, as of Thursday, with 46% having had a booster.
About a quarter of kids 5-to-11 years old were fully vaccinated as of Thursday, with 3% having received a third dose. Vaccination data on those under 5 years old was not yet available.
About 80% in the 12-to-17 age range were fully vaccinated as of Thursday. Of that age group, just under 22% had received a booster.
Those in the 18-to-34 range remain the least vaccinated adult age group in Long Beach, as of Thursday’s data. About 76% of those residents had received at least one dose, with about 67% fully vaccinated and about 30% boosted.
Long Beach’s senior population, meanwhile, remains the most highly protected group in the city — 99% of adults aged 65 and up are fully vaccinated and nearly 79% had received a first booster as of Thursday.
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