The survey question this week was a simple yes/no: Is the pandemic over?
While mask mandates and capacity restrictions have been gone since the middle of June, it’s certainly felt like it just might be over.
But it may be too early to call it quits just yet.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported a 10% increase in new Covid-19 cases across the country last week as the “hypertransmissable” Delta variant has continued to spread. The combination of the transmission capabilities and declining vaccination rate has opened the door for increased spread across the country.
While the current numbers are nowhere near the peak that they hit in January 2021, they’re still high enough to have put the CDC on alert.
The Delta strain is considered to be 60% more contagious than the current dominant Alpha Strain, which itself is more contagious than the original strain.
Delta is responsible for 25% of all new Covid-19 cases, and has been detected in all 50 states.
It’s gotten to the point that Los Angeles County announced this week that it recommends masking in all indoor spaces, regardless of vaccination status.
That being said, evidence points to vaccination being a critical factor in avoiding instances of severe disease.
Recent studies of the two-dose Pfizer vaccine found that it was 88% effective against symptoms caused by the Delta variant and 96% effective against hospitalization; similar protections were found with the Moderna vaccine.
The Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine is expected to produce similar effectiveness against new strains, although testing has not been completed to prove that theory.
Individuals who are only partially vaccinated are offered significantly less protection against Delta and other strains, to the tune of 35%.
123 people in LA County have tested positive for the Delta variant; of those, 110 were unvaccinated and 3 had received at least one dose. 10 fully vaccinated residents tested positive, but none required hospital care.
“If you are vaccinated, you have a very high degree of protection. If you are not, you should wear a mask, and you should think very seriously about getting vaccinated,” National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease Director Dr. Anthony Fauci said at a briefing earlier this week.
Where Delta has caused the most harm is in countries with low vaccination rates, as its highly contagious nature and increased severity of symptoms has hit many populations hard.
In Israel, where 85% of adults have been vaccinated, much has been made of new Covid-19 cases related to the Delta Variant. 30% of the new cases have been in fully vaccinated individuals but to date, those cases have not been severe to the point of hospitalization and death.
In a statement about winding down vaccine clinics, Mono County reported this week that nearly 65% of the county’s eligible population had been fully vaccinated, 8,109 people in all. In Inyo County, 66.3% of the population has received at least one dose, with 58.2% of county residents fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
Both counties plans to continue vaccination efforts, albeit at a decreased pace. All widely distributed vaccines are available at county clinics.
There have been no known local cases of the Delta variant;
Mono County has not reported a new Covid-19 case since June 23.
Currently, vaccinated individuals are not required to wear a mask indoors when out in public. Businesses are not required to check vaccination status as it is considered to be “self-attestation.”
California as a whole has one of the highest vaccination rates in the country, with 69.2% of residents receiving at least one dose and 59.2% of the state fully vaccinated.
A survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 77% of vaccinated adults said everyone in their household is fully vaccinated. 75% of unvaccinated adults reported that no one in their household is vaccinated.
The United States as a whole is lagging behind the goals set earlier this year by President Joe Biden, who aimed to get 70% of Americans at least partially vaccinated by July 4. That figure currently sits at 66.5%. The country is still doing much better as a whole than parts of Europe and Asia, where access to vaccine doses has been limited.
The U.S has also fallen short on global distribution goals. Biden wanted 80 million doses distributed worldwide by the end of June, headed to approximately 50 countries around the globe.
So far less than 24 million have been shipped to 10 countries.
The vaccine diplomacy has been slowed by logisitcal and regulatory hurdles, according to the White House.