The number of COVID-19-positive patients in Los Angeles County hospitals neared the 1,300 mark at mid-week, continuing a nearly three-month upward trend.

In late April, there were roughly 220 COVID-positive patients in county hospitals. As of Tuesday, there were 1,299, with 137 of them being treated in intensive care units, according to state figures. The 1,299 patients is the highest number since the tail end of a winter surge in late February.

Steadily rising hospital numbers over the past few weeks led to the county being moved into the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “high” virus-activity level on July 14. The move came when the average daily rate of COVID hospitalizations rose to 10.5 per 100,000 residents, surpassing the threshold of 10 per 100,000.

If the county remains in the “high” category for two weeks—which appears inevitable—it will reinstate a universal mandatory indoor mask-wearing mandate. That is expected to occur on July 29.

If the mask mandate takes effect, it will remain in place until the county falls back to the “medium” virus-activity category for two weeks.

Masks are already still mandated in some indoor spaces–health care facilities, transit hubs, on transit vehicles, airports, correctional facilities and shelters. A universal mandate would spread the requirement to all indoor public spaces, including shared office spaces, manufacturing facilities, retail stores, indoor events, indoor restaurants and bars and schools.

On Monday, the county reported 18,849 new COVID infections over a three-day period, raising the county’s cumulative total from throughout the pandemic to 3,225,697.

The actual number of infections in the county, however, is likely to be much higher thanks to the prevalence of residents using take-home COVID tests, the results of which are not generally reported to the county and added to the official total.

County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer has said the recent spike in infections—leading to the ultimate rise in hospitalizations and deaths—has been fueled by the BA.4 and BA.5 variants of the virus. Most recent statistics show that of the county COVID cases undergoing specialized testing to identify variants, 48.2 percent were BA.5 and 14 percent were BA.4. That combined with the 62-percent rate is double the proportion from two weeks ago.

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