UPDATED with latest: Los Angeles Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Tuesday that the county will be releasing an updated tally of Covid-19 Delta variant cases this week, “and I am positive that we will see a significant increase in specimens that are testing positive for the Delta variant.”
“Because we, like all other places in the United States and in fact other places in the world where they’re seeing the Delta variant, it does in fact proliferate very quickly,” noted Ferrer. “It is the most infectious variant that has been identified to date here in California, and that means that for those people who are unvaccinated it is going to pose a big risk because it spreads so easily.”
Indeed, California numbers last week revealed the variant had grown by 40% week-over-week. More on that below.
Final Rules For Masks In California Businesses Issued After Newsom Signs Executive Order
Thus far, existing vaccines appear to provide strong protection against the Delta variant. But unvaccinated residents are at particular risk.
PREVIOUSLY, June 21: In the same week that Gov. Gavin Newsom dropped capacity limits, social distancing rules and most masking requirements across the state, the so-called Delta variant of Covid-19 increased about 40%. The state last week also declared Delta a “variant of concern” for the first time.
The strain had previously barely registered on the weekly new variants count posted by the CA Department of Public Health. But on Thursday, the number of cases related to Delta and related variants discovered in the state rose from 286 to 399. That’s about a 40% rise week-over-week. The total is, of course, still tiny compared to the 3 million-plus infections from other strains in the region.
But as U.K. leader Boris Johnson extended his country’s lockdown due to the rapid spread of Delta, it was projected to become the dominant variant in the U.S. this summer. The Delta variant and related Kappa variants are involved in massive outbreaks in India. The CDC estimates the Delta variant accounted for about 10% of new cases in the U.S. last week. On May 22, the variant had made up only 2.7% of new cases, according to the CDC. It is thought to be at least 60% more transmissible than the original strain that spread across America.
In California, Delta went from 1.8% of cases analyzed on April 21 to 4.8% of cases on May 21. The percentages as of June 21, the month in which the variant’s strain really rose, are not yet available.
It’s not just the variant of concern numbers that have ticked up. California’s 7-day test positivity rate which hit a pandemic-era low of 0.7% on June 5, has risen steadily to 1% over the past two weeks in the state. It’s the first sustained rise in that key Covid-19 indicator since the worst of the pandemic in January.
Between late April and early June, 64 cases of Delta-related infections were identified among residents of Los Angeles County, with most of them reported in the last few weeks, health department data indicated. Much of the transmission of this variant appears to be occurring within households, say officials. What’s more, with only a fraction of positive test results examined to determine which variant caused new cases, the real number of Delta-related infections in L.A. is likely to be much greater.
Up north, Delta variant numbers – while again small – have increased more than fourfold over the past month in Santa Clara County, from 12 in mid-May to 58 as of last week. The variant now makes up 7% of all cases that undergo genomic sequencing in the county, according to The San Francisco Chronicle.
L.A. Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said on Saturday that the county is seeing a slow but steady rise in the local number of Covid cases involving Delta.
“We’re especially concerned about this variant because it appears to be highly transmissible, and by that we mean it’s more contagious, even than other highly contagious Covid variants,” said Ferrer.
“It’s also thought that this variant may cause more severe infections than other Covid variants. And while fully-vaccinated people appear to be very well protected from infections with Delta variants, people with only one vaccine [doses] are not well protected at all.”
With social distancing, capacity and most mask restrictions lifted in workplaces, Ferrer warned there is an increased risk for spreading variants of concern.
“Currently, this is a pandemic of unvaccinated people who are at increasing risk for unknowingly incubating Delta variants and other variants of concern,” Ferrer said. “At home, unvaccinated people may be able to control their risk by determining who enters their physical environment and from what distance they interact. However, unvaccinated workers at job sites often lack that kind of control.”
City News Service contributed to this report.