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Tipsheet

LA County's Largest Hospital Says They Have Few COVID Patients, So Why Is a Mask Mandate Looming?

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

Los Angeles County is, apparently, again barreling toward an indoor mask mandate due to data that shows a spike in COVID-19 cases. However, a letter from the largest provider of healthcare in Los Angeles County confirming statements made in an earlier video circulating online is raising questions about whether such a return to forced masking is really a necessary reaction given the current mild reality on the ground and in ICUs.

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Here's the July 14 video that caused the standard partisan reaction with pro-maskers decrying the information as being out of context or meaningless in the debate over whether mandates should again be reinstated:

On Monday, LAC+USC Medical Center responded to the video and the questions it raised by confirming the video was accurate but "taken from an internal weekly virtual town hall" as if the information means something different to them than everyday Angelenos. The letter also condemned the information that apparently wasn't intended for consumption by the general public being "used to promote baseless political arguments" against "COVID-19 safety measures." So, questions about low instance of serious COVID cases and whether forced masking is required in response to higher case rates without accompanying hospitalizations are now "baseless political arguments," or something. Got it.  

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But the official response from the LAC+USC Medical Center only confirms how few Angelenos with COVID are currently admitted and how mild their COVID cases are — while still insisting COVID is "a very serious public health threat." According to the letter, "many patients are presenting to our urgent Urgent Care Clinic and Emergency Department with COVID-19," something Los Angeles County Health Services says is "reflecting extensive community transmission" in the community.

Those "many patients," the health officials disclose, are not serious cases and few positive cases even necessitated hospitalization. As the letter reiterates, "approximately 10 percent of patients admitted to LAC+USC Medical Center with a positive COVID test are admitted due to illness caused by COVID." That is, some 90 percent of people in Los Angeles County's largest health care facility with COVID are there for other reasons and only incidentally testing positive as part of the patient screening process.

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"Furthermore, few of the admissions due to symptomatic COVID are admitted to the ICU," the medical center's letter explains, "and we have not had a patient intubated due to COVID pneumonia for several months." At the time the letter was sent this week, LAC+USC Medical Center had 30 COVID positive patients in its care, three of whom were admitted due to COVID, but none are in the ICU.

Yet the situation in LA County is apparently so serious that — despite what the letter explains is "high rates of vaccination across Los Angeles County" — a mask mandate again looms over its more than 10 million residents.

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