While officials continue to promote vaccination, testing may be key to slowing the spread, according to Dr. Tony Napolitano whose company, Wellstand, provides testing services to events and film and TV productions. Los Angeles on Friday set yet another daily case record at over 43,000. That’s up 100% in just four days thanks to an average 7-day test positivity rate that currently sits at 20.4%, which is just about the highest it’s ever been in the region. Put another way, one in five Angelenos is testing positive.
The one thing that does seem clear, however, is that Omicron will be driving infections for some weeks to come. “People who are going to be vaccinated, we’ve seen that curve flattening out,” said Napolitano. “I don’t think you can move the needle much on vaccination. So what’s left is social distancing, testing and masking, those type of things.”
“Our proposed Covid-19 Emergency Response Package will support our testing capacity, accelerate vaccination and booster efforts, support frontline workers and health care systems and battle misinformation, with a focus on the hardest-hit communities,” said the governor in a statement. With an eye to that, California Governor Gavin Newsom called out the National Guard on Friday to support testing operations across the state. On Saturday, Newsom loosened the state’s purse strings and announced a $2.7 billion emergency Covid spending package which is two parts prevention and one part intervention.
“My hope is that, you know, by the time we get to February, we’re on the downside of seeing that massive amount of community transmission,” Ferrer said Thursday. Hospitalizations may be peaking at that point, however. High community transmission will continue to fuel high daily case numbers in the short term. That will likely, in turn, fuel hospitalizations — which have also doubled in the past week — a few weeks down the line. Covid-related deaths will likely rise thereafter.
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Across the country, the picture is even more grim, with U.S. test positivity hitting 54% this week, according to Johns Hopkins University. That positivity rate undoubtedly fueled the record 1,082,549 new daily cases the university reported on Monday and the 900,000 it tallied Friday. The ensemble forecast model compiled by the State of California now predicts that hospitalizations related to Covid will rise to 23,528 by February 6, a 153% increase over Friday’s number, 9,279 (the state does not post Covid data on weekends). A rise to 23,528 would eclipse the previous pandemic record of 21,938 set January 6, 2021. How does that happen if Omicron is, as most experts say, less virulent than previous strains? The answer may lie in the variant’s increased transmissibility. The state’s 7-day average test positivity rate has been skyrocketing. It hit an all-time high of 21.7% on Friday. That’s 60-plus percent higher than the peak of last winter’s surge.
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