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1 in 3 people in L.A. County has had Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic

That’s according to the latest report by Los Angeles County Health Services.

By
Michael Juliano
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We’ve been faced with sobering and upsetting statistics throughout the course of the pandemic. But this one particular stat from Los Angeles County’s latest report is simply staggering.

Approximately 1 in 3 people in L.A. County has been infected with Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic, according to a report released today by Los Angeles County Health Services.

On Wednesday, the county reported that the total number of confirmed cases has risen to 958,497. If you’re doing the math, you might notice that doesn’t total up to a third of the county’s 10 million residents. Not everyone who’s comes down with coronavirus will have had a laboratory-confirmed case, though, so the county’s modeling uses additional data like the transmission rate to approximate the total number of infections.

This estimate has significantly increased over the past couple of months; in early December—when the cumulative number of cases was only half of what it is now—it was 1 in 5 and by just before Christmas it had risen to 1 in 4. As far as how that number will change going forward, the county says we still haven’t seen the full impacts of transmission between Christmas and New Year’s. Assuming the transmission rate didn’t change during that period, the report estimates that 1 in 115 people in L.A. County are currently infected and infectious to others.

With hospital capacity in a slightly stabilized but still precarious position, public health director Dr. Barbara Ferrer said that “we are considering all options at this point” when it comes to further orders and restrictions in the county. The big focus, too, is on increasing the number of vaccinations; she expects 500,000 healthcare workers to be vaccinated by the end of January, and as soon as the additional doses become available, residents 65 and older will be able to receive shots as part of the next tier of the county’s plan (expect more info on that next week). “What we’re really trying to do here is create the opportunity to get as many people vaccinated as possible before [the more-contagious U.K.] variant takes hold,” Ferrer said.

If you’re trying to find a silver lining and think that the one-third number must mean we’re pretty close to herd immunity, that’s unfortunately not the case. Many experts—including, most recently, Dr. Anthony Fauci—estimate that 70% or more of the population would need to be vaccinated (or have recovered from an infection) to achieve herd immunity.

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