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LA County sees further significant increase in COVID-19 cases, 99% involving unvaccinated

Los Angeles County officials reported on Monday the fourth day in a row of more than 1,000 new cases of COVID-19, more troubling evidence that the disease is increasing its spread among the unvaccinated.

The county public health department reported 1,059 new cases on Monday. As of Friday, 1,044 cases of the coronavirus were reported across the county, followed by 1,069 more on Saturday and 1,113 more on Sunday, according to data compiled by the Times.

“More than 99% of the COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths we see are in unvaccinated people,” county public health director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement on Monday.

Sunday’s figure was particularly striking as the number of initial cases over the weekend is usually artificially low due to reporting delays.

The flow of new infections, while still small compared to the state’s fall and winter surge, has ceded some of the county’s hard-won ground in the battle against COVID-19.

In the seven-day period that ended on June 26, the county reported on average just under 250 new cases of coronavirus per day. The number has more than tripled in just two weeks.

The number of people falling seriously ill with COVID-19 is also on the rise. State data shows 376 coronavirus-positive patients were hospitalized across the county on Sunday – the highest number since early May and up about 77% from the record of 212 set a year ago. month.

Reported deaths remain low, averaging around six per day. However, health officials have noted that it may be weeks before the increase in transmission triggers a corresponding increase in the number of deaths.

It is also possible that a corresponding increase in the number of deaths may not be as severe as in previous outbreaks, when vaccines were not widely available, as more elderly and otherwise vulnerable people are now mostly vaccinated. .

Settings with a high percentage of fully vaccinated people continue to have low rates of coronavirus cases. LA County officials say healthcare workers in nursing homes and other healthcare facilities continue to have low rates of coronavirus infections.

Home to about a quarter of Californians, LA County both reflects and shapes the state’s larger pandemic landscape.

Over the past seven days, the state has reported an average of 2,173 new cases per day – a 124% increase from two weeks ago, according to data from The Times.

In roughly the same period, COVID-19 hospitalizations statewide increased 51%, reaching 1,484 on Sunday. Deaths have remained essentially stable, at around 26 per day.

Unlike previous waves of the pandemic, this latest rise does not carry the same risk for everyone. Those who have been vaccinated against COVID-19, officials say, remain very well protected against infection, and even more so against serious health repercussions.

Although California has one of the strongest levels of immunization coverage in the country – with more than 59% of residents having already received at least one dose – millions of people have yet to roll up their sleeves, either because ‘they are too young to be eligible or to have chosen not to be.

Given the recent increase in cases, as well as the continued circulation of the hypercontagious Delta variant of the coronavirus, officials and experts characterize COVID-19 as the story of two pandemics: one in which vaccinated people benefit from. a high degree of protection while unvaccinated people remain exposed.

Despite this, the number of vaccine doses distributed statewide continues to decline. At the height of the deployment, approximately 400,000 shots went into the arms of Californians each day. Now the average is well below 100,000.

At this rate, it would take months to vaccinate enough Californians to achieve the coverage deemed necessary to achieve herd immunity – the level at which enough people are protected that the coronavirus is essentially deprived of new hosts to infect.

Estimates for this threshold vary, but generally range from 70% to 85%.

“Although California’s vaccination rates are among the highest in the country, we must remain vigilant against COVID-19 and its variants,” said Dr Tomás Aragón, state public health official and director of the California Department of Public Health, in a recent statement. . “It means motivating the remaining Californians to get vaccinated and also encouraging our friends and families.”

During a briefing last week, Ferrer said that “the work ahead is to improve confidence in these vaccines among people who are not yet vaccinated, and we will be trying many different strategies with all of our partners. “.

“The most effective strategy to date is to make sure people get their information from other people they trust, and to work to build teams of people who are in neighborhoods that are in need. can be trusted and have the right information remains one of the most important strategies, ”she said. “We will therefore continue to do so while ensuring that access remains as easy as possible.”

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