Between the reinstated mask warrants and the growing number of coronavirus cases, this summer is starting to look a bit too much like 2020.
Even in California, a state with a far above average vaccination rate, the number of people hospitalized with Covid-19 has nearly doubled in the past two weeks, according to a New York Times database. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s coronavirus spread map shows California bathed in orange and red, reporting the highest levels of transmission.
So how did we get there?
Well, what happens in California is a story that unfolds across the country. Summer ushered in more socializing and fewer restrictions, just as the hugely contagious Delta variant gained a foothold.
Andrew Noymer, professor of public health at the University of California, Irvine, used a very Californian analogy to explain it to me: “Delta is love at first sight and loosening restrictions is the wind” – and they joined their forces. forces to create a threat like a dangerous forest fire.
Although 53% of California residents are fully vaccinated, better than most states, that hasn’t been enough to prevent the spread of Delta. Even in San Francisco, which at 70% has one of the best immunization levels among major cities, new cases of the coronavirus have increased 141% in the past two weeks.
“The Delta variant is not hyperbole. It’s not the public health folks wringing their hands, ”Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, an epidemiologist at the University of California at San Francisco, told me. “He’s a game changer.”
The Delta variant is so contagious that it has spiked cases like never before, Bibbins-Domingo said. Its proliferation also means that achieving herd immunity – the threshold necessary to stop the spread of a virus – would most likely require the vaccination of at least 95% of people, she said.
But that doesn’t mean vaccinations aren’t helping now. People who have already received vaccines are much less likely to end up in hospital if they contract the coronavirus. Nationwide, 97% of people hospitalized with Covid-19 are not vaccinated, CDC says
So even as Delta spreads to California, the number of hospitalizations and deaths will be far lower than previous increases as more than 21 million Californians are vaccinated, said Dr. Timothy Brewer, an infectious disease expert at the University. from California to Los Angeles.
“The good news is that vaccines are working,” Brewer said.
How to stay safe if you are vaccinated
My colleague Tara Parker-Pope has published a guide for navigating socializing and wearing a mask in this confusing phase of the pandemic. If you’re wondering if you can still hang out with your vaccinated friends indoors or if it’s safe to travel, this is for you.
I also asked the experts I interviewed how they adjusted their behavior as coronavirus cases started to rise again in California. To my surprise, they all told me that since being vaccinated they haven’t made any major changes.
Indoor public spaces where people do not wear masks remain the most dangerous places, they said. So Noymer went back to wearing a mask at the grocery store and Bibbins-Domingo said she thinks twice before eating in restaurants, which she had been more comfortable doing earlier in the day. summer.
She and Brewer both said they have out-of-state travel plans that they currently don’t feel pressured to cancel.
Americans were promised that the pandemic would recede into the past and be replaced by a summer of joy. Instead, it has been a summer of confusion.
Is Los Angeles next? New York will be the first city in the country to require people wishing to eat inside or watch a movie in a theater to show proof of vaccination.
“When will this end?” Asked an intensive care nurse at a Santa Monica hospital, where the number of Covid-19 patients is on the rise again.
If you read a story, do this
Almost every line in this article about repatriated Iraqi artifacts comes as a surprise.
The story involves 17,000 looted antiques from ancient Mesopotamia and also the Evangelical Christian family who own the Hobby Lobby chain of craft stores. I’ll let you discover the rest.
This lemon zucchini pasta tastes like summer.
We are soliciting travel tips to share in future editions of the newsletter. Tell us about the best hidden gems to visit in California. Write to us at CAtoday@nytimes.com with your proposals.
And before leaving, good news
When a barn built in 1867 is threatened by the Dixie fire, eight men fight to save it. The barn, on Keefer Ranch in Plumas County, is believed to be the oldest still standing in the state.