COVID FLiRT Subvariants Surge in Los Angeles County, Experts Warn of Summer Wave

Los Angeles County is currently experiencing a rise in COVID cases and hospitalizations, attributed to the emergence of a new subvariant of the coronavirus gaining traction across the state. Data shows that the average number of new cases per day in L.A. County has increased to 121 from the previous week’s 106. However, it is important to note that reported cases may not fully capture the extent of infections due to limitations in testing. This trend is indicative of an anticipated summer wave as a set of new COVID-19 subvariants known as FLiRT outpace the winter’s dominant strain.

The FLiRT subvariants, specifically KP.3, KP.2, and KP.1.1, are estimated to be about 20% more transmissible than their predecessor, JN.1, according to experts. Recent data shows that 55% of estimated COVID specimens in the U.S. were of the FLiRT variants, representing a significant increase from the previous month. While current numbers of cases and hospitalizations in L.A. County are on the rise, they remain relatively low compared to past peaks, indicating an early onset of the summer COVID wave that typically occurs annually.

Furthermore, COVID-positive hospitalizations in the county have also seen an uptick, with an average of 126 patients admitted daily – up from 102 the week before. Despite these increases, there have been no observed spikes in COVID-related deaths in the county. Although COVID levels in L.A. County wastewater have remained steady, California is among a few states with high levels of COVID presence in its wastewater, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Experts advise individuals who feel unwell or test positive for COVID-19 to stay home and away from others until their symptoms improve significantly and they no longer have a fever. Additionally, regular testing is recommended, as early symptoms like a cough or sore throat may indicate COVID infection. It’s important to continue testing even if the initial result is negative, as the virus may not be detectable in the early stages.

As the situation evolves, health officials emphasize the importance of taking precautions even after recovering from COVID-19, as individuals may still be contagious for a few days post-recovery. This includes wearing masks, maintaining physical distance, and practicing good hygiene habits to prevent potential spread. Close contacts of COVID-positive individuals are advised to wear masks and undergo testing to mitigate transmission risks. For higher-risk populations like the elderly and immunocompromised, additional measures such as extended isolation or masking may be necessary for added protection.