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Care needed to avoid winter rise in COVID


With winter months and colder weather approaching, Los Angeles County’s health director urged residents Thursday to receive a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot to fend off what could be another jump in transmission of the virus as more people mingle indoors — a setting conducive to infection.

“I hope we can rally as a community and make every effort to protect our most vulnerable residents,” Barbara Ferrer told reporters during a recent briefing.

She noted that millions of county residents are currently eligible to receive the new COVID-19 booster shot, which is specifically engineered to target the most widely circulating viral variants. She said understands the “fatigue” people have over calls to get vaccinated, but the low number of residents who have received the new booster is a cause for concern.

“Those numbers need to increase pretty dramatically before we get into the holiday season or we run the risk of having more transmission,” Ferrer said.

Recent testing of COVID-19 samples has shown a small but discernable increase in a number of new variants of the virus, most notably a variant known as BA.4.6, which represented 5% of tested samples, up from 3% a week ago. The county has also now detected three samples of BA.2.75.2, which has been spreading in parts of Asia and Europe and appears to be able to avoid current vaccinations.

Samples of a variant known as BF.7 have also been detected. Health officials have long warned that as long as COVID continues spreading, the more likely it is that mutations, or variants, will develop that could spread more quickly or cause more severe illness.

Ferrer said the county will be closely watching trends in variants locally, noting that while the increases thus far are small, they could potentially spread more as people spend more time indoors during the winter. With more people mingling inside, “a variant that has an advantage in transmission and evades protections more easily will flourish,” she said.

“We need to be prepared for increases that are likely going to be associated with colder weather,” Ferrer said.