LA County’s COVID Cases, Hospitalizations Increase Amid FLiRT Variants’ Summer Uptick

FILE - Pfizer, left, and Moderna bivalent COVID-19 vaccines are readied for use at a clinic, Nov. 17, 2022, in Richmond, Va. The Biden administration will end most of the last remaining federal COVID-19 vaccine requirements next week when the national public health emergency for the coronavirus ends, the White House said Monday, May 1, 2023. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

Los Angeles County’s COVID cases and hospitalizations are continuing to increase as a new subvariant of the coronavirus makes further gains across the state.

For the seven-day period that ended Sunday, there were an average of 121 new cases per day in L.A. County, up from 106 a day the prior week, according to the most recent data available.

Reported cases are certainly an undercount, as they generally measure only lab-confirmed infections where tests are done at medical facilities and not those who test at home or don’t test at all (and fewer people are testing now).

Scientists say the trends are an indication of an expected summer wave. A series of new COVID-19 subvariants, collectively nicknamed FLiRT, are increasingly edging out last winter’s dominant strain.

The new FLiRT subvariants, officially known as KP.3, KP.2 and KP.1.1, are believed to be roughly 20% more transmissible than their parent, JN.1, the winter’s dominant subvariant, according to Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious-disease expert at UC San Francisco.

For the two-week period that ended June 8, 55% of estimated COVID specimens in the U.S. were of the FLiRT variants — up from 28.6% a month earlier.

Last summer’s peak in average new daily cases in L.A. County was 571, for the week that ended Aug. 30. Last winter’s peak was 621, for the week that ended Dec. 27.

Read the full story at the Los Angeles Times