Although most COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted in the state, Los Angeles County health officials urged residents Friday to continue exercising care as they mark Juneteenth and Father’s Day, particularly if they plan to interact with populations vulnerable to infection.
“If you’re celebrating the holidays with someone elderly or with underlying health conditions, and they haven’t been vaccinated, I encourage you to celebrate safely outdoors with masks and distancing or virtually,” Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement. “While cases and other metrics remain low, COVID-19 transmission and severe health outcomes continue among unvaccinated people.
“If your father, grandfather, great-grandfather or other family member hasn’t had a chance to get vaccinated yet, now is a good time to take them to get vaccinated. Vaccinations remain widely available throughout L.A. County,” Ferrer added.
Health officials urged people who are not vaccinated to consider “a higher level of protection,” such as double-masking or wearing a higher-grade N95-type respirator if they plan to interact with other unvaccinated people, particularly indoors. The county reported nine new COVID-19 deaths on Friday, raising the pandemic death toll to 24,435. Another 253 cases were confirmed, for a pandemic total of 1,247,216. According to state figures, there were 219 people hospitalized in the county due to COVID-19 as of Friday, down from 220 on Thursday. There were 43 people in intensive care, down from 52 the previous day.
Ferrer this week continued her call for residents to get vaccinated, presenting figures showing the high level of protection the shots offer against COVID. Of the nearly 4.4 million people in the county who were fully vaccinated as of June 17, only 1,696 have tested positive for COVID — a rate of 0.04%. Only 139 of those “breakthrough” cases had to be hospitalized, a rate of 0.003% of the vaccinated population, and 19 have died, equating to a rate of 0.0004%.
In hopes of encouraging more people to get vaccinated, the county continues to offer incentives. Through next Thursday, people who get vaccinated at sites run by Los Angeles County, the city of Los Angeles or St. John’s Well Child and Family Center will be entered for a chance to win tickets to see Pepe Aguilar in concert in November, or a VIP package for 20 people at Universal Studios Hollywood.
The contest is open to anyone who comes in for a first dose, or who comes for a second-dose appointment and brings along another person who needs a first dose. Six Flags, meanwhile, is offering 50,000 free admission tickets to Six Flags theme parks in California. The tickets are available from select vaccination providers across the state. A full list is available at Covid19.ca.gov/Vax-For-The-Win. The state on July 1 will hold another vaccine-incentive drawing, giving away six California vacation packages, including trips to Anaheim, San Diego, Los Angeles, Rancho Mirage and San Francisco.
Ferrer again noted Thursday that young Black and Latino residents in Los Angeles County continue to lag behind the rest of the population in COVID- 19 vaccination rates. She also said the county is seeing a slow but steady rise in the local number of COVID cases involving the so-called “Delta” variant of the virus. The variant is blamed for rampant infections ravaging India and some other areas worldwide.
“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,” Ferrer said. “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 are not well protected at all.”
Ferrer reiterated that the Delta variant has been present in the county for about two months, with 64 cases identified between late April and early June, most of them detected “in the last few weeks.” She said much of the Delta variant spread is occurring within households, with 34 of the 64 patients living in a household with one or more other Delta cases. Despite that statistic, she said the numbers show the variant is circulating in the community at large.
As of June 13, just shy of 10 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in the county, but the pace has slowed dramatically. Ferrer said that during the week of June 7, about 62,000 doses were administered, well short of the county’s 100,000-dose goal.
“Now that we’ve reopened and safety modifications have been lifted at many settings, it is particularly concerning to vaccination momentum flagging,” Ferrer said.