THE Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (Public Health) is strongly recommending that everyone, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks indoors in public places to prevent the circulation of the Delta variant of the coronavirus.
As of June 12, the Delta variant comprised almost half of all variants sequenced in Los Angeles County, according to Public Health.
“While COVID-19 vaccine provides very effective protection preventing hospitalizations and deaths against the Delta variant, the strain is proving to be more transmissible and is expected to become more prevalent,” Director of Public Health Barbara Ferrer said in a statement. “Mask wearing remains an effective tool for reducing transmission, especially indoors where the virus may be easily spread through inhalation of aerosols emitted by an infected person.”
Delta variants now make up about one in five new infections across the country as opposed to one in ten infections the week before, according to Public Health.
L.A. County has confirmed 123 people infected with the variant so far, of which 110 were unvaccinated and three were partially vaccinated. The county has also recorded 3.82 million total cases and 63,612 deaths.
The variant was first identified in India and has made up 14.5% of California coronavirus reported cases in June and 4.7% in May. It has spread to more than 80 countries, reinstated lockdowns in countries like Australia, Bangladesh, Germany, South Africa, and Thailand, and will become the dominant strain of the virus globally. The variant is 40 to 60% more transmissible than the Alpha variant first identified in the U.K, which is 50% more transmissible than the original strain first identified in China.
“The Delta variant is currently the greatest threat in the U.S. to our attempt to eliminate COVID-19,” White House Chief Medical Advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said.
Fauci said the variant currently makes up around 20% of newly diagnosed cases in the U.S.
However, officials have said lockdowns and stay-at-home orders from the variant are unlikely due to the number of vaccinated people in the country. Public health said “fully vaccinated people appear to be well protected from infections with Delta variants.”
“This is a pandemic of unvaccinated people,” Ferrer said last week.
Fully Pfizer-BioNTech vaccinated people are said to be 88% effective against symptomatic disease by the variant and 96% effective against hospitalization.
California has the highest vaccination rate in the country, with 49.7% of its population fully vaccinated as of this writing.
Despite the vaccination rates, the spread of the coronavirus is still faster, according to the World Health Organization, and the more the virus spreads among unvaccinated people, the more variants it will create.
“We’ve been warned three times by the U.K.,” Scripps Research Institution Executive Vice President Eric Topol said referring to previous spikes in England in early 2020 and last winter. “This time is the third warning.”
Vaccine hesitancy still remains an issue in the country, with 30% of the public saying they do not currently plan to get a vaccine, according to the Pew Research Center.
“As long as the virus is circulating elsewhere and gaining new mutations, there is probably no way to keep it out of the U.S.,” Helix Vice President of Science William Lee said. “If there are new variants abroad, unvaccinated communities in the U.S. remain at risk.”
The California government has issued efforts to increase vaccination rates, such as raffles for passes to Six Flags, the L.A. Zoo, and the La Brea Tar Pits.