Local officials are keeping a wary eye on the new Omicron variant, which has now been detected in Canada after first cropping up in Africa and then in Europe.
“California is closely monitoring the new Omicron variant, which has not yet arrived in California or the U.S.,” state Public Health Director Tomos Aragon said.
“Vaccines continue to be our best way through the pandemic by safely protecting us against severe illness from COVID-19 and its variants. We are doubling down on our vaccination and booster efforts to ensure that all Californians have access to safe, effective, and free vaccines that can prevent serious illness and death.”
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health addressed the new variant on Saturday.
“Although more studies are needed to determine whether the Omicron variant is more contagious, more deadly or resistant to vaccine and treatments than other COVID-19 strains, as with any variant of concern that is found in other countries, there are important steps we all need to take to protect ourselves from COVID-19 and from emerging variants of concern,” the department said.
The number of coronavirus patients in Los Angeles County hospitals increased slightly, rising from 565 Saturday to 568, according to the latest state figures. The number of those patients in intensive care rose from 155 to 157.
Those numbers came as the county reported 575 new cases of COVID-19 and seven additional deaths associated with the virus, in totals that likely reflect reporting delays over the weekend, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
The county has now reported 1,525,486 cases of COVID-19 and 27,128 fatalities since the pandemic began.
Of the 9,402,000 individuals tested to date, 15% have tested positive for the virus, the department said.
Officials urged anyone at least 5 years old who has not been vaccinated to do so, and those who had their last shot six months ago to get a booster shot.
“The vaccines are effective against the Delta variant and earlier strains of the virus, which allows us to remain hopeful that the approved vaccines will also provide some protection against Omicron,” the statement said.
Officials also reminded people to wear a mask when indoors or at large outdoor mega-events regardless of vaccination status.