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LA’s COVID Outbreak Amid Delta Variant Spread: How Serious Is It?

Health officials say Los Angeles County is in the midst of a new wave of coronavirus – with an average daily case count now nine times higher than it was just four ago weeks.

But this latest recovery comes at a decidedly different time from the pandemic. Even with recent increases in transmission and the worrying spread of the highly infectious Delta variant of the coronavirus, most Angelenos are now fully vaccinated, and experts say they continue to enjoy high levels of protection against COVID-19 .

However, the risk remains real – and growing – for those who are not vaccinated. And health officials say those who have yet to roll up their sleeves make up the vast majority of new infections.

COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, however, remain significantly lower than levels seen in previous outbreaks, and there is hope that the region’s relatively robust immunization coverage means this latest peak will not present the same challenges for the region. the health system.

So how bad is this new wave going to get? This is what we know:

What do the numbers show?

Over the past week, LA County reported an average of 1,770 new cases of coronavirus per day. Four weeks ago, the county was seeing only about 190 new cases daily, according to data compiled by The Times.

As of Wednesday alone, the county recorded more than 2,000 new infections – the highest figure since early March.

Authorities have expressed growing concern over the spread. The county-wide test positivity rate now stands at 5.2%. A month ago it was only 0.7%.

Hospitalizations have also increased dramatically. As of Tuesday, 645 coronavirus-positive patients were in the county hospital – nearly triple the number seen a month ago.

County and statewide, officials say most new infections are confirmed in those who are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19. During the week of July 7 to 14, the average case rate among unvaccinated Californians was 13 per 100,000, according to the state’s Department of Public Health. The comparable figure among those who had been vaccinated was 2 per 100,000.

Despite the increases, LA County has yet to reach the heartbreaking heights seen during the winter wave, when an average of about 15,000 new cases were reported each day and more than 8,000 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized.

Are we seeing more deaths?

Daily COVID-19 death totals remain relatively low, averaging around 4 in LA County and 23 statewide, according to Times data.

And officials are optimistic that the usual pace of the coronavirus – with an increase in cases triggering an increase in hospitalizations and, ultimately, deaths – could be halted, given the number of people who have been vaccinated.

About 53% of LA County residents are fully immunized. But many of the most vulnerable populations, such as the elderly, have been vaccinated at even higher rates.

“Due to the more infectious Delta variant and the mix of unmasked individuals with unknown vaccine status, unfortunately we are seeing an increase in cases in LA County which looks somewhat like last summer,” said the director of public health, Barbara Ferrer. “An important difference this summer is that with millions of people vaccinated, we hope to avoid a similar increase in the number of deaths.”

What about masking?

Starting last weekend, LA County reinstated the requirement for everyone to wear masks in indoor public places.

While no other county has yet to do the same, a third of those in California are now urging even fully vaccinated people to wear masks indoors.

Officials hope masking in these areas will slow the spread – but it will take weeks to be sure. If these measures prove to be insufficient, further restrictions may become necessary.

What about other areas?

LA County is far from the only corner of California facing the latest punch from COVID-19.

Over the past week, the state has reported an average of nearly 5,000 new cases of coronavirus a day, five times more than four weeks ago, according to data compiled by The Times.

At the end of June, the state was registering about 6,000 new cases per week, according to an analysis by The Times. At the height of the pandemic, the state recorded more than 300,000 new cases of coronavirus over a seven-day period.

How bad could it be?

No one is sure, in part because the Delta variant is a new factor.

But some experts said they didn’t think we would see an increase in order from last winter, in large part because so many people are already vaccinated.

In an interview last week, Robert Kim-Farley, a medical epidemiologist and infectious disease expert at UCLA’s Fielding School of Public Health, said he was not worried that the pandemic was approaching the same level of devastation. that six months ago, but that he is “concerned about the trajectory.

He said: “I hope this will be the wake-up call for those who are still hesitant to get vaccinated to roll up their sleeves and get vaccinated.”

Dr Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease expert at UC San Francisco, said authorities were unlikely to order companies to reduce capacity or shut down.

“I think the economy must continue – and that there are enough people vaccinated,” Chin-Hong said last week.

There may be regional hot spots in California, but hospitals in other parts of the state will likely be able to lend a hand if an area is inundated with COVID-19 patients, Chin-Hong said.

What do health officials hope for?

While measures such as masking can help blunt transmission, the real answer, officials say, is more vaccinations.

Californians most at risk, especially the elderly, have been vaccinated at high rates. But the numbers are falling for the younger segments of the population, and children under 12 are still not eligible to be vaccinated.

LA County Director of Health Services Dr Christina Ghaly said Tuesday that “the individual consequences of choosing not to be vaccinated can be disastrous for that person, their family and friends.”

“I think sometimes the mentality is that people think, ‘Well, I’m not going to get that sick. I’m doing well. I’m not going to die of COVID; I am young; I am in good health, ”she said. “And I can tell you, I hope it does, but it doesn’t necessarily have to.”

While some areas have considered requiring vaccines among public employees, Dr Muntu Davis, LA County health official, said last week that “we recognize that not everyone will get vaccinated, and we accept it. It’s a personal decision right now.

But, he added, “If you decide not to get the vaccine, be sure to do everything you can to reduce your risk, especially at this time.”

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