Just weeks after moving from the federal government’s “high” COVID-19 activity category to the “medium” rating thanks to falling hospitalization rates, Los Angeles County could soon graduate into the “low” category as case numbers continue to fall, the public health director said this week.

Barbara Ferrer told the Board of Supervisors that transmission of the virus still remains elevated, but based on official infection numbers, the county could move to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “low” virus-activity category within the next week.

The categorization change would have no practical effect for residents, other than sending a message of an overall slowing of virus transmission.

The county moved into the “high” virus level in mid-July, thanks to a new infection rate that topped 200 per 100,000 residents and an average daily virus-related hospitalization rate that topped 10 per 100,000 residents. 

On Aug. 12, however, the county moved back to the “medium” category when the hospitalization rate fell below 10 per 100,000 residents.

Moving into the “low” category will require the county’s hospitalization rate to remain below that threshold, and for the rate of new infections to fall below 200 per 100,000 residents. That rate has been steadily falling, reaching 213 per 100,000 people as of Tuesday, down substantially from a month ago, Ferrer said.

“It’s possible L.A. County … could move to the low community level in this next week, should that case rate drop below 200,” Ferrer said. She noted, however, that the official infection numbers reported by the county and the CDC represent an undercount of the actual number of cases that are occurring locally — thanks to the proliferation of at-home tests.

Ferrer also noted that the hospitalization rate is still fluctuating. Last week, the county’s hospitalization rate ticked up to 9.6 per 100,000 residents. She said that as of Tuesday, the COVID hospital admission rate in the county was at 8.7 per 100,000.

Ferrer added that while the falling transmission rate is good news, a rate of 200 per 100,000 residents “is still high,” and residents should continue to take all available prevention measures to prevent infections, especially at gatherings over the Labor Day weekend.

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