Health officials are urging fully vaccinated Californians to resume wearing masks in indoor public places amid the latest sustained and significant wave of COVID-19.
âThe Delta variant has caused a sharp increase in hospitalizations and case rates statewide. We recommend masking in indoor public places to slow the spread while continuing our efforts to get more Californians vaccinated, âsaid Dr. TomÃ¡s AragÃ³n, director of the California Department of Public Health and head of public health for California on Wednesday. the State, in a press release.
The new recommendation appears to be more extensive than the latest guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency informed Tuesday that residents mask themselves indoors when in public in areas where community transmission is considered “substantial” or “high,” the two worst classifications on the four-level scale. the agency.
As of Wednesday morning, most of California fell into one of those categories, including the entire southern third of the state. And more than 90% of California’s population live in areas currently under one of those designations, according to the State Department of Public Health.
However, the state “now recommends universal masking in indoor public places,” according to a statement.
âThis adds an additional precautionary measure for all to reduce the transmission of COVID-19, especially in communities that are currently experiencing the highest transmission rates,â the guide says.
The latest mask recommendation is just one of the new measures California authorities have implemented to tackle a sustained rise in coronavirus infections and COVID-19 hospitalizations.
Although the number of infections and people sick enough to be hospitalized remains well below the levels of previous increases, the scale of the latest increases is ringing alarm bells statewide.
“Our projections are sobering,” Gov. Gavin Newsom told reporters earlier this week. “Our projections are, over the next few weeks, we will show a significant increase in hospitalizations if we continue down this path.”
Los Angeles County sent an alert to residents on Wednesday saying COVID-19 cases were rising rapidly and urging people to get vaccinated.
Over the past week, California has reported an average of nearly 7,400 new cases of coronavirus per day, about eight times the rate from four weeks ago, according to data compiled by The Times.
On Monday, 3,200 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized statewide, including 720 in intensive care.
Both of those numbers have doubled in the past two weeks.
More aggressive actions
Newsom and other state officials unveiled the latest part of their COVID-19 battle plan earlier this week.
Starting next month, California will demand from all state employees – as well as workers in public and private healthcare facilities and gathering places such as prisons, homeless shelters, and residences for the people. elderly – to prove that they have been vaccinated.
Those who are not vaccinated or who refuse to provide requested documents will be subject to regular testing and will be required to wear masks when working indoors.
Los Angeles County already requires masks in indoor public spaces, and face coverings will also be required in such spaces in Yolo County starting Friday, officials said this week.
Many other counties in California have issued recommendations, but not warrants, for their residents to do the same.
The COVID-19 outbreak continues in Los Angeles County, with more than 2,000 new cases reported on Tuesday.
“Case rates are increasing in all adult age groups, with the highest rate increases occurring in adults aged 18 to 29 with a nine-fold increase from 40 to 350 cases per 100,000 over the course of last month. And the case rate has increased 7.5 times among those aged 30 to 49, from 33 to 247 cases per 100,000, âthe county said in a statement.
Despite the recent increase, California is far from peaks recorded during the fall and winter wave, when the state reported an average of more than 40,000 daily cases, and nearly 22,000 COVID-19 patients have been hospitalized some days.
Deaths from COVID-19 also remained relatively low – at around 25 per day, on average.
Deaths are the ultimate delayed indicator of the spread of coronaviruses, and it can sometimes take weeks for increased transmission to trigger an increase in deaths. Some officials, however, are optimistic that the state could prevent a serious increase in the number of deaths, given the number of Californians already vaccinated.
Officials and experts say there is a wealth of data demonstrating just how powerful the available COVID-19 vaccines are in preventing infection – and particularly in preventing serious illness.
According to the California Health and Human Services Agency, the latest rate of coronavirus cases among unvaccinated residents is thought to be over 14 per 100,000 people – about seven times the rate for those who are fully vaccinated.
And more than 97% of people now hospitalized with COVID-19 nationwide have not been vaccinated, according to CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.
“People who aren’t vaccinated are increasing cases and hospitalizations in California, and we urge everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated now so we can keep our kids in school and in open businesses,” wrote state health officials in their statement to The Times.
But even with California’s relatively strong immunization coverage – nearly 61% of all residents have received at least one dose to date, and 53% are fully immunized, data from The Times shows – millions of people have not. not yet rolled up their sleeves, or are not yet eligible to do so.
These unvaccinated people remain particularly at risk of infection, experts say, especially given the rapid spread of the highly infectious Delta variant of the coronavirus.
“Estimates are that this is the most infectious respiratory virus we have seen in a long time, and it is certainly the most infectious variant that we have seen,” the county public health director said on Tuesday. from LA, Barbara Ferrer.