Los Angeles County sees exponential growth in Covid-19 cases as Delta variant becomes dominant, worrying officials

The jump mirrors upticks in other parts of the country over the past week, as experts warn of Delta’s high transmissibility.
“We do continue to see an uptick in cases and hospitalizations,” Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Thursday. “Deaths, fortunately continue to be relatively low, but as hospitalizations continue to increase we anticipate that deaths might also increase.”
While 60% of those over 16 years old have been fully vaccinated, the case rate in the county jumped from 1.74 cases to 3.5 cases per 100,000 people in one week, according to a news release from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
The overwhelming majority of those testing positive in the county are unvaccinated, representing 99.96% of all new infections, the news release said.
Overall, the state’s Covid-19 positivity rate — the percentage of all tests that are positive — has tripled since California fully reopened last month.
The rate is now surpassing 2% for the first time since early March, after hitting a low of 0.7% in early June, according to new data from the state’s Department of Public Health.
The Delta variant, first detected in India, has been found in 43% of new sequenced samples in California, the state said.
And it also makes up more than 50% of sequenced samples across the country. In some areas, it’s even more, according to Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Although we expected the Delta variant to become the dominant strain in the United States, this rapid rise is troubling,” she said.
In parts of the Midwest and upper Mountain states, CDC data suggest it accounts for about 80% of cases.
“Widespread vaccination is what will truly turn the corner on this pandemic,” Walensky said. “Please know, if you are not vaccinated, you remain susceptible.”

Pfizer says it’s developing a booster shot after seeing waning immunity

Meanwhile, Pfizer announced Thursday it was seeing waning immunity from its vaccine — manufactured in partnership with BioNTech — and was picking up its efforts to develop a booster shot to offer further protection against variants.
“As seen in real world data released from the Israel Ministry of Health, vaccine efficacy in preventing both infection and symptomatic disease has declined six months post-vaccination, although efficacy in preventing serious illnesses remains high,” Pfizer said in a statement emailed to CNN.
Israel’s health ministry said in a statement earlier this week that it had seen efficacy of Pfizer’s vaccine drop from more than 90% to about 64% as the Delta variant spread.
But hours after the Pfizer statement, the FDA and Centers for Disease and Control issued a joint statement saying Americans don’t need booster shots yet.
Dr. William Schaffner, professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, supported the US government’s stance.
“The answer is that our vaccines still are very, very effective in keeping us out of the hospital, in averting severe disease. That’s what they were designed to do,” he told CNN on Thursday. “Now, it’s a bonus if they can also prevent what we call infection. You can get infected, have mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. They diminish that possibility greatly. But they can’t turn it off completely.”

Vaccination gap widens

While experts have long stressed vaccines are our best defense against the pandemic, overall rates have dipped across the US.
Less than half of Americans are fully vaccinated as of Thursday, CDC data shows. And the difference in vaccination rates between Republicans and Democrats has grown over the last two months, a report released Thursday from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows.
Vaccination rates are increasing faster in counties that voted for Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election than in counties that voted for Donald Trump, the new study finds.
The team used data comparing county-wide vaccinations numbers from the CDC with 2020 presidential election results.
In April 2021, counties where most people voted for Trump had an average vaccination rate of 20.6%, compared to 22.8% in counties that went for Biden, the study found. By July 2021, the average vaccination rate in Trump-leaning counties was 35%, and 46.7% in Biden-leaning counties. The gap increased by 9.5 percentage points in under three months.
The researchers said these numbers get at the importance of targeted vaccination efforts that account for partisan opposition.
“A key component of any effort to boost vaccination rates among Republicans will be identifying the right messengers,” the researchers wrote.
“Republicans are most likely to trust their doctors and employers to provide reliable information on COVID-19 vaccines, while government sources are less trusted.”

Author: Aya Elamroussi, CNN
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