Masks are coming back indoors starting Saturday

by Steven Felschundneff |

New coronavirus cases in Los Angeles County continue to climb as the delta variant spreads across the region. And because of that, Los Angeles County health officials will implement a mask mandate starting midnight on Saturday.

Los Angeles County Department of Public Health reported 1,537 new cases Thursday and 1,315 new cases on Wednesday—the highest numbers recorded in months. This is the sixth consecutive day when more than 1,000 new cases have been reported. The county also reports nine additional deaths.

The daily case rate has risen to 3.7 infections per 100,000 people, up from 1.2 percent two weeks ago and the test positivity rate has increased to 2.5 percent from 1.2 over the same period of time.

The spike in new cases is largely being driven by young people, a group that is also less likely to be vaccinated. The county is reporting that 83 percent of new cases are people under 50, while 70 percent are in the 18 to 49 age range. About one in four people 18 to 25 say they either probably or definitely won’t get vaccinated against COVID-19, according to a study by University of California San Francisco.

Hospitalizations have also risen, although more moderately. After bottoming out around 200 in mid-June, the county is now reporting 398 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19, up from 274 last Wednesday. Twenty-four percent of patients hospitalized are in ICU. While the death rate has remained mostly flat, it is a trailing indicator which takes weeks to catch up with the case rate.

The delta variant has been the most commonly sequenced since the beginning of June and accounted for 54 percent of samples analyzed from June 20 to 26. This is consistent with national trends, for which delta accounts for about half of cases.

On Wednesday public health officials repeated their recommendation that everybody wear masks in indoor public settings, regardless of vaccine status.

“With increased COVID-19 transmission among unvaccinated people, Public Health encourages those that are eligible for COVID-19 vaccination and not yet vaccinated, to get vaccinated without delay. It takes time before you are considered fully vaccinated,” L.A. County Public heath official said in a news release.

The good news remains that the vaccination is almost 100 percent effective at preventing infection from the delta variant. Of the nearly 5 million residents who are full vaccinated, about 0.06 percent later tested positive, 0.004 percent were hospitalized and just 21 people, or 0.0004%, died of their infections.

This of course means almost 100 percent of the people becoming sick during the current surge are unvaccinated. However, because nearly 60 percent of the eligible population is inoculated, public health officials said hospital overcrowding, and new stay at home orders, remain unlikely.

Claremont is not immune to the new surge. After weeks of reporting almost no new infections, the county is now saying 10 people tested positive in the last week for a cumulative total of 2,365. The number of deaths has been revised down by one for a total of 59.

One possible explanation for the rise of Claremont’s cases is that the local vaccination drive has stalled out at just over 63 percent. Shorty after the vaccine became available to most adults, Claremont was among the top 10 communities with the highest vaccination rates, sharing this distinction with affluent neighborhoods including Beverly Hills and Palos Verdes Estates. Now we lag far behind other much less well off municipalities, including Commerce at 74 percent, El Segundo at 80 percent, Monterey Park at 81 percent and San Gabriel at 78 percent.



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