What Is Causing the Decline in L.A. COVID-19 Cases?

Rates of new infections and hospitalizations have fallen far from their winter peaks, but we still have a long way to go

Local and national rates of new cases and hospitalizations linked to COVID-19 have fallen sharply. In Los Angeles County, daily numbers of new infections have dropped as much as 80 percent in some places from their highest points just weeks ago. A number of factors may be contributing to the drop in coronavirus cases in L.A., from the benefits of early rounds of vaccine to people finally accepting the dangers of gatherings and other high-risk behaviors. Here is some of what might be afoot.

We’re being more responsible     

Some of the worst moments of the pandemic followed periods when people flouted all the recommendations and insisted on gathering with groups, often indoors or without masks. After seeing the horror of the surge, with overloaded hospitals and astronomical numbers of deaths, and hearing about the challenge of containing more aggressive new strains, some people may be taking the situation more seriously then before. Updated guidance on travel quarantining and double-masking could be helping, as well. Plus we’re now nearly two months past the winter holidays, which were the reason for a lot of travel and gatherings.

The weather is warming up

As far as we know so far–and this could change because we’re still learning new things all the time–COVID-19 doesn’t particularly care about the weather. However, people do. And when it’s cold and rainy, they spend more time indoors–which is when the virus spreads most easily. Now that days are getting a bit longer and temperatures are hovering around the 70s, individuals who do find it necessary to socialize outside their households might be more likely to resume doing so outdoors.

Vaccinations are working

While many residents are still waiting for their turn to get jabbed, nearly 1.6 million doses of vaccine have been administered in L.A. County so far. About 12 percent of the population of California has received at least one shot. And while that’s only a small fraction, it is targeted at some of the people at highest risk of exposure and at greatest risk of severe cases. That could be helping to put some form of lid on hospitalizations, in particular, as well as new infections.

We might be comparing to the wrong baseline

Some experts say that focusing on a drop in coronavirus cases from an anomalously high peak could give an impression the virus is under control when, in fact, it’s just not as out of control as it was at a particularly terrible point in time.

“It’s encouraging to see these trends coming down, but they’re coming down from an extraordinarily high place,” CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said last Sunday on Meet the Press. She stressed that, while national rates today are lower than during the winter, they remain more than double what they were during the summer of 2020.

Eric Garcetti echoed that sentiment in a briefing on Tuesday, saying that “even this level today in Los Angeles is triple, quadruple what it was at our lowest point in this pandemic.”

RELATED: Here’s What You Need to Know About When and How to Get a COVID Vaccination in L.A.

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