COVID cases are way down in LA. But does public health director Barbara Ferrer expect another wave?

The FDA issued emergency use authorization for Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine over the weekend, and the Biden administration says it could start arriving today. The pharmaceutical giant Merck, a rival of Johnson & Johnson, is expected to help its competitor manufacture the vaccine.

There’s a sense of optimism in LA County, which is now looking at pre-winter surge numbers. Under 1,000 new daily cases were reported on Monday. The seven-day positivity rate is about 3%, which is the lowest since the early days of the pandemic.

Barbara Ferrer, LA County’s public health director, says there’s good cause for optimism.

“We have really returned to … our pre-surge numbers. That took a lot of hard work on the part of everybody who lives and works here in LA County. … It shows up in lower case numbers, which then drive lower hospitalization numbers. And hopefully, sometime soon, we'll also start seeing less people dying from COVID-19,” Ferrer says.

However, she notes there are still lots of cases. “Today we reported 1400 cases, 91 people died, and there are 1500 people in the hospital. So we're not back to zero. And that means that there’s still community transmission.”

She says transmission is happening among people who’ve contracted a more infectious variant — from South Africa, Brazil, and even California — and people must be vigilant about protecting each other.