Delta is now California's main variant, bad time to be unvaccinated, experts warn

Josue Torres
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Last month, the highly contagious variant accounted for more than a third of all coronavirus infections in California.

Delta has become California’s most infectious coronavirus variant, a worrisome development that highlights the virus’s threat to unvaccinated people.

According to new statistics from the California Department of Public Health, 35.6 percent of coronavirus variants tested in June were classified as the extremely contagious Delta virus, which was originally discovered in India. 

This is a significant increase from May when Delta accounted for just 5.6 percent of coronavirus infections in California and was the fourth-most detected variation.

Delta is now more common than the previously dominant form, Alpha, which was initially discovered in the United Kingdom and accounted for 34.3 percent of coronavirus cases examined in June. 

In April and May, Alpha was the most common variant in the state, surpassing the California variant, now named Epsilon, which occurs in fewer than 2% of studied instances.

Delta’s fast growth has prompted some public health authorities to issue fresh cautions, recommending more care at a time when vaccinated people are putting away their masks and returning to regular life.

Although individuals who have been completely vaccinated are thought to have significant levels of protection, there is increasing worry that the virus will spread among those who have not been immunized.

Coronavirus infections and hospitalizations have been increasing in Los Angeles County, where 4 million individuals have not gotten a single dose of vaccination, including 1.3 million who are not yet eligible.

Delta may be twice as infectious as the first coronavirus strains that swept quickly across the world last year.

Delta is also quickly expanding throughout the country. Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States, said that current statistics indicate that the Delta variant accounts for 25% of studied coronavirus infections nationally. 

Nearly half of the studied cases in certain parts of the nation are Delta.

On the other hand, Delta accounted for fewer than 3% of coronavirus samples tested nationally between May 9 and May 22.

There have also been indications of an increase in Delta cases in Los Angeles County. In early April, the county began to notice an increase. There were less than 20 recognized Delta cases each week in the county in May, but by June, there were 60 to 80.

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Delta accounted for almost half of all instances examined in Los Angeles County in the week ending June 19; four weeks before, it accounted for less than 5%.

Delta has been found in 245 coronavirus infections in Los Angeles County, with early clusters found in Palmdale and Lancaster. Fourteen Delta instances were reported among members of the same home.

The increase in the percentage of recognized Delta cases comes as COVID-19 hospitalizations in Los Angeles County and throughout the state have started to climb again.

California's number of COVID-19 hospitalizations dropped to 915 on June 12, the lowest since the state started monitoring cases. 

On Saturday, there were 1,097 COVID-19 patients in hospitals throughout the state, a 20% rise.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 hospitalizations in Los Angeles County reached a new low of 212 on June 12. 

On Saturday, there were 284 hospitalized patients, a 34% rise but still far below the high of 8,098 during the pandemic’s deadliest days.

State authorities said they don’t anticipate California’s hospitals to be overrun by COVID-19 patients again — there are just too many vaccinated individuals in the state for such a situation to arise.

However, authorities stressed the need of getting more Californians immunized.

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Dr. Fauci cited recent trials that found the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to be 88 percent effective against symptomatic illness caused by the Delta variant and 96 percent effective against hospitalization after two doses. 

The AstraZeneca vaccine, which is not authorized for use in the United States but is based on the same technology as the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, was shown to be 92 percent effective against hospitalization.

Fauci said that getting completely vaccinated is the best method to protect ourselves against the virus and its variants. 

Certain authorities, however, have said that the research isn’t clear on whether some vaccinated individuals are at a greater risk of acquiring the Delta variant and transmitting it to others, while not being seriously ill themselves.

That was the rationale behind the L.A. County Department of Public Health’s most recent advice that even fully vaccinated individuals wear masks in indoor public places until more definite information regarding Delta becomes available.

Officials in Los Angeles County have voiced worry over a recent increase in coronavirus infections of all types.

The county recorded about 2,600 new coronavirus cases from June 25 to July 1; the previous week’s total was approximately 1,100.

Barbara Ferrer, L.A. County Public Health Director said that individuals who have been completely vaccinated are significantly protected against severe disease and death from COVID-19, particularly the Delta variant. 

She questioned if it’s possible to get the variant, not have major symptoms and still transmit it to others.

Until further information is available, Ferrer has asked that people of Los Angeles County to wear masks inside where vaccination levels may be unclear.

She said that if wearing a mask inside offers that additional layer of protection, she believes it’s worth it.

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Others who have recommended that even vaccinated individuals wear masks include Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, the World Health Organization, and St. Louis area health authorities.

The CDC has maintained that fully vaccinated individuals do not need to wear masks because of the high levels of protection provided by the vaccinations approved for use in the United States.

Fauci said that if people are vaccinated, they have a high level of protection, therefore they do not need to wear a mask, inside or outdoors.

He went on to say that local governments are allowed to make their own suggestions or regulations depending on area circumstances.

California authorities and local health agencies throughout the state have continued to follow the CDC’s masking guidelines.

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