Covid rates in Los Angeles are getting better every day. Things are improving so much that California is planning to fully reopen in less than a month. When California reopens, there will be no more mask mandate.
Despite all the good news, some people are still nervous about reopening.
There are many reasons for this, but breakthrough cases are probably the biggest.
Los Angeles will likely see a rise in breakthrough cases soon. But, that isn’t a problem. Let me tell you why.
What is a Breakthrough Case?
A breakthrough case is when a fully vaccinated person is infected with covid.
A fully vaccinated person is someone who is two weeks past their final shot.
Breakthrough cases are rare percentage-wise. However, in a county with over 150 million vaccinated, there is bound to be a good number of breakthrough cases.
Why do They Happen?
The reason we see breakthrough cases is simple.
No vaccine in history is 100% effective. Covid vaccines are no different.
Why Will We See More?
To understand why Los Angeles will see an increase in breakthrough cases, you need to remember what vaccines' “effectiveness” percentage means.
Saying that a vaccine is 95% effective (like the Pfizer vaccine) is a little deceptive.
It doesn’t mean that the vaccine works 95% of the time.
In a vaccine trial, there are two groups. One group gets the vaccine. The other receives a placebo. They then track how many people in each group get Covid.
If the vaccine group has five infections and the placebo group 100, that vaccine would be considered 95% effective.
In other words, 95% of the people that would have gotten covid without the vaccine were protected after vaccination.
This difference might seem insignificant, but it’s not. Remember that at the time of the trials, people's behavior was different.
Now that recommendations have changed, people’s behaviors will change.
The vaccines will still be roughly as effective, but more people will be exposed to the virus.
More people being exposed will lead to more breakthrough cases.
But, don’t worry. That is not as bad as it sounds.
Why it Doesn’t Matter
One instance of recent breakthrough cases is the New York Yankees. They had nine fully vaccinated people in their organization test positive.
The critical thing to note about those nine cases is that only one developed actual symptoms.
It’s important to remember that stopping Covid is not the goal. Stopping severe Covid is the goal. It’s very similar to how we don’t stop the flu. We manage the severity.
Vaccines have proven to be highly effective against severe cases of Covid.
Los Angeles can reopen safely as long as severe cases remain low.
Dr. Howard Forman, a Public Health professor, makes it clear that vaccinated people don’t need to live in fear of Covid.
“The CDC offers guidance, and that guidance is taken very seriously. It’s important to convey to the public the confidence they have and what we know right now. What we know right now is that vaccinated people are exceedingly safe, that the breakthrough cases are very, very low.”-Dr. Forman
“To my knowledge, we still don’t have an identified case of a vaccinated person spreading to another vaccinated person. When you add those things up, it really says that we need to have a different set of rules and guidelines for vaccinated individuals.”-Dr. Forman
There are three important things to keep in mind:
- Breakthrough cases are rare
- Breakthrough cases are rarely severe
- Vaccinated-to vaccinated transmission is unlikely
Those three things together mean that Los Angeles can reopen aggressively next month and do it safely.