New alarms over the Delta variant as L.A.'s coronavirus surge worsens

·3 min read
HIGHLAND PARK, CA - JULY 16: Brandy Muniz, 31, of Highland Park is walking on the sidewalk wearing her mask on Friday, July 16, 2021 in Highland Park, CA. Starting Saturday night, residents will again be required to wear masks in indoor public spaces, regardless of their vaccination status. Just a month ago, Los Angeles County and the rest of California celebrated a long-awaited reopening, marking the tremendous progress made in the battle against COVID-19 by lifting virtually all restrictions on businesses and other public spaces. Now, the coronavirus is resurgent, and the nation's most-populous county is scrambling to beat back the pandemic's latest charge.(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)
Brandy Muniz, 31, of Highland Park wears a mask as she walks along a sidewalk. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

The coronavirus surge fueled by the Delta variant in Los Angeles County continues to worsen, according to new data released Thursday.

The Los Angeles County Public Health Department announced 3,248 new cases, adding that the daily average case rate rose to 15.7 per 100,000 people, compared with 12.9 cases per 100,000 people last week.

Still, officials said this week's COVID-19 growth is slower than last week and officials reported a small increase in the number of people getting vaccinated. Public health experts are hoping L.A. County's reinstated requirement that people wear masks in indoor public places can help slow the spread.

The state Wednesday urged everyone — even those fully vaccinated against COVID-19 — to wear masks indoors while in public, joining a renewed national push to increase protection amid an ongoing spike in cases. But the ultimate goal is to persuade those who have not been vaccinated to get their shots, which experts say is vital to reversing the surge.

From July 18 to 24, providers throughout the state administered an average of just more than 64,000 vaccines a day — about 3,100 more daily doses than the week before.

“Vaccinations are critically important to reducing the impact of rising infection on our residents. The science on this variant shows that it is different from earlier variants of COVID: It replicates faster and more efficiently in respiratory tract cells, which means that infected people may now spread up to 1,000 times more virus particles with every cough, sneeze or shout than they did a year ago," L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement Thursday.

"They may also spread the virus efficiently two days earlier in their illness' course than did people who were infected a year ago. A more infectious variant indicates infected people have more opportunities to transmit the virus and can do so more efficiently before they realize they were even exposed," she added.

Officials stress that the vast majority of new infections are being found in those who are unvaccinated.

From July 14 to July 20, the average coronavirus case rate among unvaccinated Californians was 20.7 per 100,000 people per day — about six times the comparable rate of vaccinated individuals, according to state health officials. Vaccinations offer strong protection against even the fast-spreading Delta variant.

But with transmission on the rise, officials say more precautions are warranted.

"While vaccinated people are extremely unlikely to get severely ill from COVID, there is a small risk of getting infected and transmitting the virus. This is why we are asking everyone to wear a mask indoors, regardless of vaccination status,” Ferrer said.

The new numbers come amid new reports that the Delta variant may be more of a threat than officials originally believed. The Washington Post obtained Centers of Disease Control and Prevention documents of unpublished research showing that "vaccinated individuals infected with Delta may be able to transmit the virus as easily as those who are unvaccinated," the newspaper said.

The New York Times reported quoted CDC Director Rochelle Walensky as confirming evidence that vaccinated people with breakthrough infections could spread the virus to others.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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