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Health officials praise progress defeating virus, but…

by Steven Felschundneff | steven@claremont-courier.com

Los Angeles County continues to have very positive looking coronavirus metrics. However, it is still too soon to declare victory, according to health officials this week.

Every important measure of the local outbreak has been in rapid retreat over the last few months—average daily cases down 98 percent, hospitalizations down 94 percent and deaths down 97 percent. For example, on April 11 health officials reported seven average daily deaths down from a peak of 274 in January.

Over that same period, the county has administered more than six million doses of the vaccine, including four million first doses and more than 2.2 million people considered fully vaccinated because they have received the second dose or the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

“With these continued stable daily case rates and daily test positivity averaging about one percent we can all feel hopeful that our progress on slowing transmission is not an illusion,” Los Angeles County Health Director Barbara Ferrer said. “However, if we hope to sustain this remarkable progress, we need to be realistic about the risks that come with our return to the places and activities that were such a big part of our lives before the pandemic.”

But there were some potentially dark clouds on the horizon because since March 19, just one month ago, cases have increased 22 percent nationwide despite the rapid pace of vaccinations, with over two million vaccines administered to Americans, and a quarter of the U.S. population is now fully vaccinated.

Cases are not increasing in all areas and reasons for each new outbreak require a complex calculus. However, Ms. Ferrer said that states with current high rates of community spread have reported a prevalence of the more transmissible variants or have moved rapidly to reopen their economies.

“In all states with significant case increases restrictions have been significantly relaxed,” Ms. Ferrer said. “Given what is happening in other parts of the country we can’t afford to be complacent after our communities have already suffered so much.”

“The last thing we want to see is the virus come roaring back. We know that we have seen that in other parts of the country and the world, but I have hoped we could avoid this in Los Angeles County because we have administered more than six million [vaccine] doses as of last week,” L.A. County Supervisor Hilda Solis said.

In the past, increases on the east coast have translated to a rise in cases in L.A County a few weeks later. Ms. Ferrer doesn’t believe this pattern in inevitable. Circumstances are different now because of the relatively high vaccination rate, particularly among people over 65 who are most likely to die as a result of contracting the virus. However, to maintain the gains, we must continue to take care of each other, including wearing masks and maintaining safe distances, she said.

She also highlighted some of the real numbers about the efficacy of the vaccine now that there is widespread administration among the population

Leading up to the very early days of the vaccine rollout, the county reported that about one in every 10 L.A. County residents was infected with COVID-19. And that’s a very low-end estimate of the real numbers, given how many people who were infected didn’t get tested for one reason or another, health officials said in a statement. During that same period, about one in 500 residents died from COVID-19. Currently across the nation, about one in 56 people infected with the virus have passed away.

Looking at the data on breakthrough infections—those people who contract COVID-19 even though they are fully vaccinated—the CDC reported last week, the risk of infection was one in 13,275, and the risk of death decreased from one in 500 to one in a million.

If everyone in L.A. County were fully vaccinated there would be approximately 700 breakthrough cases, and probably fewer than eight people would pass away, according to Ms. Ferrer.

“This is why getting everyone vaccinated is so important,” she said.

With campaigns over the last several months focused on increasing vaccinations among communities of color, the county is reporting a 170 percent increase in inoculations in Black communities, 151 percent among multiracial individuals, 130 percent in American Indian or Alaska Natives, 129 percent among Hispanic residents, 91 percent among Asian residents and 78 percent among white residents.

“In Latinx residents, the vaccinated proportion of the population increased more than fourfold of what it was two months ago, and in Black residents, the proportion increased more than threefold,” the county said in a statement.

“No matter what we will continue to vaccinate people as fast and as safely as we can, and to do so equitably which is something I have stressed from the very beginning,” Supervisor Solis said.

In Claremont the county is reporting seven new cases for a cumulative total of 2,306. Even though our infection rate has slowed significantly, deaths here have continued at about one a week and sadly, this week is no exception with one more confirmed death, bringing our total to 58.

The county is reporting 439 new cases and a cumulative total of 1,229,998. There were 25 new deaths on Wednesday for a total of 23,702. There are 484 people with COVID-19 currently hospitalized, 23 percent of whom are in the ICU. 

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