With 67% of the LA county population having received at least one dose of the vaccine, and 58% fully vaccinated, LA County officials are now echoing national health experts who say the pandemic is creating two distinct groups of people: those who are fully vaccinated, have significantly lower risks of infection and serious illness, and for whom life is looking increasingly normal again…and the unvaccinated – for whom risks are still substantial, and who may now be even more vulnerable to newer, more contagious strains of the virus. Or, as LA County Health Director Barbara Ferrer said at the County’s weekly briefing yesterday, this is now “a pandemic for unvaccinated people.”
While our local case numbers are still low, there was a slow but steady rise in new cases every day this past week, except for yesterday (and numbers tend to be artificially low on Mondays, due to slower weekend reporting).
LA County COVID Cases, Deaths & Hospitalizations - June 15-21
|Date||New Cases||Deaths||Current Hospitalizations|
In fact, LA County Supervisor Hilda Solis reminded everyone at yesterday’s event that while our overall numbers are still good, everyone, vaccinated or not, should still be taking “common sense actions” to protect ourselves and others…and there are still significant risks, especially for the unvaccinated, including more than 1 million children under the age of 12 in LA County.
Both Solis and Ferrer also reminded residents yesterday that the newer Delta variant of the virus, which is spreading rapidly, is the most contagious strain so far – more than 50% more contagious than the UK Alpha variant people were worried about earlier this year, which was itself more than 50% more contagious than the original strain of the virus that launched the pandemic.
So far both local and national officials say vaccinations are very effective against both the original and variant strains of the virus, which is great news if you’re vaccinated. But it’s much less great for those who are not vaccinated, because they will remain the incubators, hosts, and spreaders for both current and future variants.
And the gap is widening quickly.
As the Washington Post reported recently, “the [infection] rate among susceptible, unvaccinated people is 73 percent higher than the standard figures being publicized [for the population at large]…the national death rate is roughly the same as it was two months ago…[and] the adjusted hospitalization rate is as high as it was three months ago.”
And the same thing is playing out in LA County, where vaccination rates are lowest in Black and Latinx communities…and the rates of new cases, hospitalizations and deaths are much higher than in white and Asian populations.
So the county is now stepping up both education and vaccination efforts in these most vulnerable communities, to help protect against further harm. “The message is quite simple,” said Solis, “get vaccinated and continue to wear a mask until you are.”
To keep us on the track toward a true end of the pandemic everyone, and not just those who are already vaccinated, Ferrer said the vaccine is “the most powerful tool we have.” But while vaccination rates between 70 and 90% of the population are needed to reach true “herd immunity,” LA County still has a way to go, with just 67% of our 10 million residents having received a first dose, and just 58% of those 16 and over fully vaccinated.
But even though vaccination rates have slowed down considerably in recent weeks, LA County is still working hard to keep things moving. Ferrer said there are 767 vaccination sites open this week in LA County, many with evening and weekend hours, and another 247 mobile sites, specifically targeting those communities with the lowest vaccination rates and highest rates of new cases, hospitalizations and death.
Also, countering one specific source of vaccination hesitancy that’s been in the news recently, Ferrer provided an update on reports of myocarditis (inflammation of heart muscle) and periocarditis (inflammation of the membrane surrounding the heart), which have been found in some people shortly after their vaccinations. The good news, Ferrer said, is that these incidents are “extremely rare,” with only 226 confirmed cases so far and another 250 possible cases under invesitgation, out of more than 150 million vaccinations nationwide. Also, Ferrer said, most of the confirmed cases have been in young men ages 16 and up, and most have been easily resolved with medication and rest, so the benefits of vaccinations definitely outweigh the potential risks.
New Workplace Rules
As reported last week, many business restrictions were lifted on June 15, and vaccinated people are now allowed to be unmasked in many social and business settings. And this week the relaxations continued, with new workplace standards adopted by the California Occupational Health and Safety Administration.
According to the new rules:
- Face coverings are NOT required for fully vaccinated employees who have verified their status to their employers
- Face coverings ARE required for unvaccinated employees indoors and in shared vehicles, except as shown below
- Face coverings ARE still required for all employees on public transit, in indoor youth sites, health care facilities, correctional facilities, and shelters, and at “mega events” of more than 5,000 people
It’s important to note, though, that even under the new Cal/OSHA standards, businesses can still require masks of all workers and/or customers if they choose to do so, and they are allowed to ask about the vaccination status of both employees and customers. And no one can force either employees or customers to remove their masks if they choose to wear them, either indoors or outdoors.
Finally, in addition to the new mask polcies, Cal/OSHA also revised several other rules, including eliminating social distancing in workplaces unless there is an outbreak of three or more cases. Other rules that kick in when there are outbreaks of various sizes include:
Meanwhile, to prevent those outbreaks, Ferrer said the best protection is still face masks – especially N95 or KN95 respirators.
And another good idea, said Ferrer, is for employers to actively verify employees’ vaccination status, and not rely just on self-attestation.
But of course, said Ferrer, the strongest protection of all is vaccination, to ensure that all employees, and all customers are equally protected. And that can happen quickly. In fact, she noted, if someone gets the Johnson & Johnson vaccine today, they can still reach full immunity and join those who are free to unmask in most places, by the July 4 holiday.
About Elizabeth Fuller
Elizabeth Fuller was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN but has lived in LA since 1991 - with deep roots in both the Sycamore Square and West Adams Heights-Sugar Hill neighborhoods. She spent 10 years with the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, volunteers at Wilshire Crest Elementary School, and is the co-owner/publisher of the Buzz.
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2 thoughts on “COVID-19 Update: “A Pandemic for Unvaccinated People””
The World Health Organization recommend children NOT get vaccinated 19 hours ago. It is alarming that the CDC is going against this recommendation. The FDA has not approved the covid 19 vaccine and there is not enough data in to determine long term affects.
Just to clarify, the WHO’s guidelines are here: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/covid-19-vaccines/advice
“Children and adolescents tend to have milder disease compared to adults, so unless they are part of a group at higher risk of severe COVID-19, it is less urgent to vaccinate them than older people, those with chronic health conditions and health workers.
More evidence is needed on the use of the different COVID-19 vaccines in children to be able to make general recommendations on vaccinating children against COVID-19.
WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) has concluded that the Pfizer/BionTech vaccine is suitable for use by people aged 12 years and above. Children aged between 12 and 15 who are at high risk may be offered this vaccine alongside other priority groups for vaccination. Vaccine trials for children are ongoing and WHO will update its recommendations when the evidence or epidemiological situation warrants a change in policy.”
This does not say kids shouldn’t be vaccinated, but that they are generally not as high risk as older people. Also, it does say that the vaccines have been determined to be suitable for people 12 and older. Vaccines have not yet been approved for kids under 12, so younger kids are not yet being vaccinated.