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Claremont Courier - A Local Nonprofit Newsroom

Unvaccinated make up nearly 100 percent of COVID-19 cases and deaths

by Steven Felschundneff | steven@claremont-courier.com

For months health professionals have praised the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine even as real world evidence remained elusive. This week a dose of proof arrived when the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health announced unvaccinated residents account for nearly 100 percent of coronavirus infections, hospitalizations and deaths in the county.

From December 7, 2020—when vaccinations first became available—to June 7, 2021, 99.6 percent of the county’s nearly 437,000 new COVID-19 cases were unvaccinated individuals. This includes 98.7 percent of hospitalizations over this time period, and 99.8 percent of the 12,234 deaths, according to a news release from L.A. County Public Health.

The importance of this cannot be overstated because the virus continues to infect hundreds of people a day in Los Angeles County, and claims between three and 11 lives daily. This trend has continued for months and may be reversing some of the gains the county has made in fighting the virus’ spread.

Recent attention has focused on the highly contagious delta variant, which fueled the recent surge in India and has since spread across the globe. In the week ending June 12, the new strain accounted for roughly half of the all variants recorded by health officials in the county. Furthermore, these 123 samples were found in clusters including 49 cases in Palmdale and Lancaster.

The health department is also troubled by reports from Israel about the delta variant infecting inoculated individuals.

County recommends masks indoors as cases rise

In response to the risk the delta variant poses to the unvaccinated, public health announced this week that masks are advised for everyone regardless of vaccine status when indoors. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) noted that delta variants are now responsible for about one in every five new infections across the country, up from approximately one in every 10 the week before. World Health Organization officials said this week that the variant had spread to 96 countries.

“Public Health strongly recommends people wear masks indoors in settings such as grocery or retail stores; theaters and family entertainment centers, and workplaces when you don’t know everyone’s vaccination status. Until we better understand how and to whom the delta variant is spreading, everyone should focus on maximum protection with minimum interruption to routine as all businesses operate without other restrictions, like physical distancing and capacity limits.” health officials said in a news release.

Whether the public will heed the new masking recommendation is debatable, particularly given that just two weeks ago the state lifted most coronavirus related restrictions and since then mask wearing has declined precipitously.

Concern about new variants comes as more people are testing positive for the coronavirus, reversing a months-long trend of falling positivity rates. While transmission in L.A. County remains low, the county recorded 210 new cases and the test positivity rate was around 0.5 percent on June 15, the day the state fully reopened. Nearly two weeks later, public health has confirmed a doubling in new cases with 422 reported Wednesday and a test positivity rate of 1.2 percent.

While the increase in community transmission is concerning, the increases are still far below the winter surge levels of over 15,000 new cases daily and a test positivity rate of 20 percent.
It’s no secret that a significant percentage of the population has little to no interest in getting the coronavirus vaccine. The reasons range from distrust of the medical profession to vaccine aversion and even politics. It would be easy to just disregard these holdouts, after all it is their decision. However, for society to reach herd immunity a majority of the unvaccinated need to get the jab eventually. Urgency remains high, because the longer theses people refuse the inoculation, the longer the coronavirus remains in circulation, increasing the likelihood of a vaccine resistant variant.

The county continues to record gaps in vaccination coverage by race and ethnicity, with over 44 percent of Black adults and 53 percent of Hispanic adults 16 and over receiving at least one dose, compared with 65 percent of white residents and 74 percent of Asian residents.

A data analysis by The New York Times found the places with the lowest vaccination rates tend to be heavily Republican. In an average U.S. county that voted for Donald Trump, only 34 percent of people are fully vaccinated, the Times reported. In an average county that voted for Joe Biden, the share is 45 percent, and the share that has received at least one shot is higher.
This is a crucial factor because fully vaccinated people appear to be well protected against the delta variant, although it is spreading quickly among the unvaccinated and is even infecting those individuals who have received only one dose of either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine.

Because Los Angeles County is so large and diverse, pockets of unvaccinated individuals remain, and the Antelope Valley appears to be an intersection of vaccine resistance. With both a large Hispanic population and residents who supported Donald Trump in the 2020 election, vaccination rates trail across this northern most region of the county. This includes unincorporated Pearblossom with just 27 percent of residents receiving at least one shot. Other areas with low vaccination rates include unincorporated Acton at 41 percent, Llano at 37 percent and Leona Valley at 33 percent. The city of Palmdale is doing much better at 57 percent but just a few miles to the north Lancaster is just at 49 percent.

Vaccination rates here in Claremont are good but have stalled somewhat with 20,486 people, 63 percent of the eligible population 16 and older, receiving at least the first dose. Among residents 65 and older, 6,288 or 91 percent are either fully vaccinated or have received the first dose.

Claremont has recorded only 21 new infections over the last six weeks for a cumulative total of 2,346. The 60 total deaths has not changed in months.

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