Health officials across Southern California are watching cautiously as a fourth surge, driven by variants, is happening across the nation and sickening children.
CHRIS HOLMSTROM: A highly contagious variant of coronavirus has now taken hold here in the US.
PAT HARVEY: And it may be causing a surge of new infections, especially in children and young people.
CHRIS HOLMSTROM: All right so the race to vaccinate continues across the country. Tonight, more than 109 million Americans have received at least one dose. And nearly 20% of the US is now fully vaccinated.
PAT HARVEY: Well, KCAL9's Tom Wait is here now with the latest on the spike nationwide, and how it's causing concern right here in Southern California.
TOM WAIT: Yeah, there's concern here, but there's also some good news, Pat. We'll get to that in just a second. Local health officials are doing all they can to get vaccine shots in arms, and also pleading with people to help keep up the good work wearing those masks along with other measures because right now here in Southern California, our numbers are going in the right direction-- down. But across the nation, some hot spots are seeing frightening increases in cases and deaths.
BARBARA FERRER: We don't live in a bubble here in LA County.
TOM WAIT: LA County health director Dr. Barbara Ferrer on the COVID variant spreading across the country. In LA County, the numbers are going in the right direction, but that could easily change.
BARBARA FERRER: In terms of noting that cases are going up elsewhere, you know, I feel like I've been saying that for the last two weeks. We have to pay a lot of attention to what happens elsewhere.
TOM WAIT: Health officials across Southern California are watching the fourth surge happening nationally, driven by variants and attacking kids. 44% of all new COVID cases are now found in just five states, the highest positivity rate children 12 through 17, and that highly contagious UK variant now the nation's dominant strain.
ROCHELLE WALENSKY: Across the country, we're hearing reports of clusters of cases associated with daycare centers and youth sports.
TOM WAIT: Public health experts say the variants are more transmissible among kids, who, in the early days of the pandemic, were not seen as high risk for infection or serious illness.
BARBARA FERRER: I think everyone's worried, and paying a lot of attention, and hoping that we do what LA County can do and do well, which is continue to slow the spread of transmission.
TOM WAIT: LA County reported the first case of the Brazilian variant Wednesday. It's also been found in San Bernardino and San Diego counties, and since the counties do not test every COVID case for it, they are certain it spread even more.
Meanwhile, horrifying scenes like this continue to play out across the globe. In Brazil, cases and hospitalizations are surging. Patients are being put in hallways as beds are running out.
JAIR BOLSONARO: [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]
TOM WAIT: The country's president, Jair Bolsonaro, addressed the country, refusing to order a national lockdown, saying the virus is impossible to eradicate. Back here in the US, even as cases are rising in certain states, there is good news. The death toll is going down. The CDC says vaccinations are helping, especially among the elderly. Tuesday night, the White House made this statement on vaccinations--
ANDY SLAVITT: By the weekend, half the adults in the country will have had their first shot.
TOM WAIT: That prediction was walked back on Wednesday.
ANDY SLAVITT: Sometime likely this month, over the next couple of weeks, we're going to get to about half.
TOM WAIT: President Biden warning Americans just because states are reopening, doesn't mean we can let our guard down.
JOE BIDEN: We aren't at the finish line.
TOM WAIT: The urgency now, to protect kids and get them back to school safely. What students have missed over the course of the pandemic is boiled down to three words in the latest time magazine-- "the lost year." 17-year-old Twyla Joseph is on the cover.
TWYLA JOSEPH: I didn't get to take my SATs, and they kept getting canceled. Am I going to go to college? Am I going to have a job? Just sitting at home, like, on your laptop every day, it makes you depressed, it makes you feel lonely, and it makes you feel unmotivated.
TOM WAIT: So when does this all end? It's the question we all keep asking, right? Well, Dr. Fauci was asked about that today, and he says, we'll know the finish line when we see the cases, hospitalizations, will all see huge drops. And hopefully, this will be in our rearview mirror when we see that happen. Pat, back to you.
PAT HARVEY: Hopefully so. Thank you so much, Tom.