By CBSLA Staff

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Los Angeles County health officials reported over 20,000 new cases Thursday, more than triple the number of cases reported last week.

Thursday’s cases brought the county’s total caseload to 1,669,545.

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L.A. County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer also reported another 24 fatalities bringing the death toll to 27,625.

The average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus is now 21%, Ferrer said.

Licensed Vocational Nurse Eloisa Flores prepares a dose of Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic in Los Angeles, California on December 15, 2021. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP) (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

On Wednesday, L.A. County reported over 16,000 new COVID-19 cases and 1,069 hospitalizations.

Two weeks ago, on Dec. 15, there were 1,850 new cases reported and 751 hospitalizations. There have not been over 1,000 hospitalizations because of COVID-19 since Sept. 20.

The Delta and Omicron variants of the virus have fueled this surge in cases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revised their estimates on variant prevalence and determined that Omicron accounts for 59% — and Delta 41% — of all cases in the country since Christmas.

Officials have said about 90% of the COVID deaths during the pandemic occurred in people who had underlying health conditions. The most common conditions are hypertension, diabetes and heart disease.

According to county figures, of the more than 6.3 million fully vaccinated people in the county, 127,172 have tested positive for the virus, for a rate of 2%, while 3,094 have been hospitalized, for a rate of 0.05%. A total of 602 fully vaccinated people have died, for a rate of 0.01%.

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Overall, 79% of eligible county residents aged 5 and older have received at least one dose of vaccine, while 71% are fully vaccinated. Of the county’s overall population of 10.3 million people, 75% have received at least one dose, and 67% are fully vaccinated.

The lowest vaccination rate is among children aged 5-11 — the most recent age group to become eligible for the shots.

Ferrer urged more people to get vaccinated and noted there are 2.9 million vaccinated residents in the county who are eligible for booster doses who have not yet received them.

“We urgently need to get more people protected by boosters,” she said.

Ferrer and county Supervisor Holly Mitchell urged residents to be cautious as they celebrate New Year’s Eve, with Ferrer noting, “The risk of virus transmission has never been higher in our county.” She urged people to avoid large gatherings, and gather outside whenever is possible. People who have underlying health conditions or aren’t vaccinated should avoid gatherings altogether, she said.

Ferrer said she respected plans for the Rose Parade to go on as scheduled on Saturday, despite the large crowds it traditionally gathers. But she said people at high risk for virus transmission or for severe illness if they become infected should avoid attending.

“This might be the year for some people to be watching this on TV,” she said.

The city of Long Beach, which like Pasadena maintains its own health department separate from the county, also issued a statement Thursday warning of a dramatic rise in COVID infections. According to the city, average daily cases in Long Beach jumped by 1,234% during the month of December.

“While cases are rising in Long Beach, the good news is that hospitalizations are not increasing as quickly as they were last January,” City Health Officer Dr. Anissa Davis said in a statement. “This is a testament to the fact that vaccinations and boosters are proving effective at preventing severe disease. Please get vaccinated if you haven’t already, and get boosted if you’re eligible. Regardless of whether you’re vaccinated or not, it is important to get tested if you are showing any symptoms of COVID-19, which can be as mild as a cold or allergies.”

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Long Beach’s Billie Jean King Main Library was closed on Thursday due to a “known COVID-19 exposure.” Library officials said the affected areas are being cleaned, and the library is scheduled to reopen Tuesday.