The so-called “Delta” coronavirus variant that’s been blamed for massive infection rates in India and case spikes in parts of the United Kingdom has been detected in Los Angeles County since early April, but the numbers have remained low thanks to the overall plunge in virus transmission rates, the county’s public health director said Thursday, June 10.

Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer warned, however, that the presence of a variant that is far more easily transmitted from person-to-person than previously identified strains highlights the need to more expansive vaccination efforts.

“Keeping this variant from spreading in our county requires continued effort to get immunizations to unvaccinated residents in our communities and to urge residents to keep taking measures to protect themselves and others,” she said during a briefing. “This is particularly important for those who are not vaccinated who can end up unknowingly being incubators for Delta variants and other variants of concern.”

Exact overall numbers of the “Delta” and related “Kappa” strains of the virus detected in the county were not immediately available. But they represent a small proportion of variants detected in 6,285 samples tested since late last year from county residents, either by the county’s public health lab or other facilities.

Of 1,472 samples tested by the county public health lab, only nine were found to be the Delta variant.

“We’re not yet seeing an appreciable increase in the number of Delta or Kappa variants among the samples sequenced from our residents,” Ferrer said. “And this is good news. And it’s probably in large part due to the very low transmission rates we currently have in L.A. County.”

L.A.’s County case rate was 1.4 per 100,000 residents, according to state data on Thursday. Its positivity rate was 0.4%.

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While the variant does appear to be more highly transmissible, Ferrer said, it’s still unclear if the Delta strain causes more severe infection. But the ease with which it can be transmitted makes it a bigger risk for people who are not vaccinated against COVID-19, she said.

Ferrer referenced a study by health authorities in England that concluded fully vaccinated people are well protected against the strain, but people who have received only one dose of the vaccine are more susceptible to the Delta strain than other forms of the virus.

“This increases our urgency to fully vaccinate as many people as possible,” Ferrer said.

Vaccination statistics continue to show lags among Black and Latino communities, particularly among younger residents. And at the same time, those groups have the highest continuing rates of infection, hospitalization and death — rates that could potentially worsen once most health protocols are lifted across the state on Tuesday, June 15.

Ferrer said she remains confident the county is prepared for the economic reopening, even with the pace of vaccinations declining. But, she said, it would “greatly increase our confidence if we saw greater vaccine uptake across the county.”

While most restrictions will be lifted come Tuesday, there will be some situations in which folks will still have to wear masks, under guidelines the state announced …read more

Source:: Los Angeles Daily News


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