As delta variant spreads, L.A. County health director urges COVID vaccinations

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A student gets the COVID-19 vaccine at the California State University Long Beach campus on Aug. 11, 2021, in Long Beach. (PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images)

A student gets the COVID-19 vaccine at the California State University Long Beach campus on Aug. 11, 2021, in Long Beach. (PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images)

As government officials mull requiring residents to show proof of vaccination in more settings, Los Angeles County continues too see an increase in COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations.

In the one month between July 4 and Aug. 4, the number of coronavirus cases climbed about 387% while hospitalizations rose by 366%.

“This alarming increase in the rise in hospitalizations serves as a stark reminder that this virus causes debilitating and dangerous illness,” L.A. County Department of Public Health Barbara Ferrer said in a media briefing Thursday.

Fears over the latest spike in infections has officials and businesses scrambling to implement added safeguards in hopes of preventing a surge like the one that came in the winter, overwhelming hospitals and shuttering businesses.

The city of Los Angeles on Wednesday moved toward requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccinations indoors at restaurants, gyms, stores and other spaces. The City Council voted to direct the city attorney to draft an ordinance requiring patrons to have at least one dose of the vaccine to be able to enter the indoor public spaces.

The L.A. County Board of Supervisors also voted Tuesday to look into options for requiring residents to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination to enter certain indoor spaces in unincorporated county areas.

Adding to concerns is the highly-contagious delta variant.

The variant now accounts for nearly all of the coronavirus strains seen among samples sequenced in the L.A. County area, according to Ferrer.

While fully vaccinated people are well protected from severe infections from the delta variants, “it’s now clear that fully vaccinated people can become infected,” Ferrer said.

“The delta variant is spreading,” Ferrer said. “Much of what we’re learning affirms that it spreads more easily. And this is why we need to move swiftly to improve vaccination rates.”

The good news is that the data shows that vaccination is helping with warding off serious illness.

Just 0.01% of all fully vaccinated people end up hospitalized, according to Ferrer.

That means that vaccinated people have on average been about 14 times less likely to end up hospitalized for COVID-19 than unvaccinated or partially vaccinated residents.

And among vaccinated people who do get COVID-19, those most likely to end up in the hospital are people with chronic illnesses and weakened immune systems.

The highest rates of cases in L.A. County are among unvaccinated or partially vaccinated adults between the ages of 18 and 49. However, it’s the older adults who are more likely to end up in the hospital if infected.

Adults over 50 years old who are unvaccinated are 42 times more likely to die as a result of COVID-19 than their vaccinated counterparts, according to Ferrer.

“If everyone eligible were to get vaccinated, there wouldn’t be so many families dealing with the worry of having a loved one hospitalized with COVID,” Ferrer said.

So far, 62% of the county’s eligible population is fully vaccinated.

“We’re fortunate that we have the tools at hand that we need to get back to slowing the spread of delta variant,” Ferrer said. “We all just need to accept that as the virus changes, we need to be flexible in our responses to reflect the changing science.”

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