By CBSLA Staff

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – The number of coronavirus patients in Los Angeles County hospitals fell slightly Saturday, declining from 664 to 660, according to the latest state figures.

The number of those patients in intensive care was 161, up one from Friday.

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The latest hospitalization numbers come as county health officials reported 1,647 new cases of COVID-19 and 25 additional deaths associated with the virus, bringing to the county’s totals to 1,501,527 cases and 26,740 fatalities since the pandemic began.

On Friday, officials once again stressed the safety and efficacy of the COVID vaccines. According to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, of the nearly 5.9 million fully vaccinated people in the county, 68,780 of them — or about 1.2% — subsequently tested positive, and 2,314 have been hospitalized, for a rate of 0.039%. The county has recorded 379 deaths among people who have been vaccinated, for a rate of 0.0006%.

Officials have said that of the people who have died from COVID-19 — vaccinated and unvaccinated — the vast majority, or about 90%, had underlying health conditions. Hypertension has often been cited as the most common underlying condition leading to severe COVID illness or death.

“We remain committed to working with businesses and residents to prevent the continued spread of a virus that results in serious illness and death,” county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said. “Our goal is to ensure everyone has good access to high-quality information about vaccine safety and easy access to vaccines. We are reassured that 900,000 children ages 5-11 can get vaccinated before the winter holiday, allowing many families to have more peace of mind as they make plans to gather with others to enjoy festivities.”

Ferrer on Thursday noted that the county has seen a slight increase in the rate of virus transmission over the past week, along with a plateauing of other metrics that had been on a steady decline — hospitalizations and deaths.

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The county’s seven-day cumulative virus-transmission rate as estimated by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was 84 new cases per 100,000 residents this week, up from the mid-70s last week, keeping the county entrenched in the “substantial” transmission category.

“Cooler weather has arrived, and with it, conditions that favor COVID transmission as we gather inside to stay warm and for celebrations and gatherings,” Ferrer said Thursday. “While vaccination remains our most powerful tool for preventing spread of the virus, when we have this much transmission, masking up indoors and in crowded outdoor spaces is still an important layer of protection for everyone. We ask that you continue to do your part and adhere to the masking requirements, which are likely to remain in place for the remainder of this calendar year as we all work hard to reduce community transmission rates to the `moderate’ tier.”

Reaching the CDC’s “moderate” transmission tier requires the county to fall below a seven-day new case rate average of 50 per 100,000 residents.

Ferrer said the average number of people hospitalized in the county has leveled off at about 630 people per day, and the number of daily deaths is averaging about seven to eight.

About 80% of eligible residents aged 12 and over have received at least one dose of vaccine, and 72% fully vaccinated. Among all 10.3 million residents in the county, including those not eligible for shots, 69% have received one dose, and 62% are fully vaccinated.

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Children aged 5-11 became eligible for shots earlier this week, a group that includes about 900,000 kids in Los Angeles County.