West News Wire: As the number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the region continues to grow, Los Angeles County may shortly reimpose indoor mask regulations.

The largest county in the US has “medium” COVID-19 transmission levels, according to LA County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer, and facial coverings will be necessary if it rises to the “high” category.

Data from the health department show that as of Dec. 1, Los Angeles County was seeing an average of 2,490 new COVID-19 infections per day, which is the highest number since Aug. 26.

According to Ferrer, the actual number is probably much higher because many persons who used at-home quick tests and tested positive did not notify the appropriate authorities, or they did not test at all.

Additionally, there are currently 1,164 residents hospitalized in the county due to the virus, which is the highest number of patients seen since Aug. 11.

Daily deaths are still relatively low at 14, but the figure could rise because COVID-related fatalities tend to lag a few weeks behind case and hospitalization increases, Ferrer noted.

“There is this common line of thinking that the pandemic is over and COVID is no longer of concern, but these numbers clearly demonstrate that COVID is still with us,” she said.

Two weeks ago, county officials said they were “strongly recommending” that residents wear masks in indoor public settings but stopped short of requiring them after the COVID-19 case rate hit 100 per 100,000 residents.

Currently, the weekly rate is 185 per 100,000 and Los Angeles County would likely be considered “high” if it reaches 200 per 100,000.

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If cases keep climbing at the same rate, Ferrer said the county will likely reach the “high” category by next week.

According to Ferrer, mask requirements will return if Los Angeles County sees daily average hospital admissions exceed a rate of 10 per 100,000 and if more than 10% of staffed inpatient beds are being occupied by COVID patients. Both are benchmarks set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Given both the increases in hospitalizations and the lack of certainty in the winter trajectory for COVID-19, continuing some common-sense mitigation strategies that we know work to limit transmission and illness, including masking and being up to date on vaccines and boosters, remains a very sensible approach,” she said.

Health department data shows 73% of all residents are fully vaccinated but the percentages vary widely by age.

Seniors aged 65 and older have the highest rate with 92% fully vaccinated while children between ages 6 months and 4 years have the lowest rate with just 6% fully vaccinated.

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