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The number of new COVID-19 infections in Los Angeles County again pushed over the 500 mark on Wednesday, July 7, while the number of people hospitalized reached nearly 300, prompting health officials to promote a community-outreach program aimed at spreading the word about infection-control efforts.

The county has been seeing a rise in daily COVID-19 infections over the past two weeks, reporting more than 600 new cases on Saturday – nearly triple the numbers being reported in mid-June.

The Daily News reported that on Wednesday, the county reported 515 new infections, although some of those cases could be the result of a reporting backlog from the long holiday weekend. The new cases pushed the cumulative countywide total during the pandemic to 1,253,536.

According to state figures, there were 296 people hospitalized due to COVID in the county, up from 275 on Tuesday. There were 71 people in intensive care, down from 73 a day earlier. While hospitalization numbers have been increasing slowly, they are still a fraction of the four-digit figures seen during the county’s winter surge of infections.

Health officials have said the county’s recent increases in daily infections and testing-positivity are being fueled by the rise in COVID-19 variants, particularly the highly contagious “Delta” variant. They added that with 4 million residents in L.A. County still unvaccinated – including 1.3 million children who aren’t eligible for shots – there is enough risk for the variant to pose a significant threat.

“Delta” has also become California’s most identified strain of the coronavirus, accounting for 35.6% of the variants analyzed in June, a steep increase from May, when the number was just 5.6%, according to the California Department of Public Health.

As of last week, more than 10.4 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine had been administered in the county. The latest numbers show that 59% of residents age 16 or older are fully vaccinated, while 68% have received at least one dose. The numbers are higher among seniors, with 76% of people 65 and older fully vaccinated, and 87% with at least one dose.

The weekly pace of vaccinations, however, has slowed from an winter/spring high of about 500,000 doses per week in the county to now less than 60,000. Vaccinations continue to lag among the Black community, which is also bearing the brunt of new COVID infections and hospitalizations.

And now the Seattle Times reports that the gamma variant, on the other hand, is associated with higher hospitalization rates and increased breakthrough infections. The variant, also known as P.1, now accounts for 16% of the cases in Washington state and is the fastest-rising variant in the state.