The Mono County Board of Supervisors met on Tuesday to discuss possible new Covid restrictions for the coming months.
The rapid spread of the Covid Delta variant, especially in California, has led to the recommendation by Mono County Public Health for vaccinated and unvaccinated people alike to wear masks while in public, indoor spaces.
“We could be excused a year ago for not being ready, but with the variant and increasing transmission rates, it’s incumbent on us to be vigilant,” said Mono County Administrative Officer Bob Lawton.
According to Mono County Public Health Director Bryan Wheeler, voluntary masking in public spaces is the first action to take.
“Unfortunately, we are seeing a surge and we’re just trying to prepare for it. Using mitigations like masking can definitely help prevent the spread,” said Wheeler.
The Delta variant – the most contagious version of the coronavirus worldwide – is currently spreading throughout Mono County.
It is officially the dominant strain of Covid in California.
While all other strains have been observed to be trending downward in the state, case rates for the delta variant are trending exponentially upward.
Nationally, Covid case rates are up 66%. Over the last 7 days, deaths are up 13%.
Case rates in California are up over 500% in the last 30 days, and medical professionals are seeing more than 1,000 new cases a day in the state.
Cases statewide peaked in January at 50,000 new cases per day.
Los Angeles County has been a particular hotspot for the Delta variant, which raises concerns over recent tourism from the L.A. area to Mono County. “Over the past several weeks, we have seen about 10 individuals test positive who were visitors here,” said Wheeler.
Mono County’s current case rate is now 6.3 per 100,000, whereas 30 days ago it was zero.
“It is more transmissible and seems to cause more severe illness,” said Wheeler. Delta’s increased tranmissibility is due to a mutation on the protein spikes of the virus that make it much easier for the virus to attach to the receptor cells in our bodies.
The Delta variant has an infection rate double that of the initial strain.
How prepared is Mono County for a potential surge?
As of Thursday afternoon, Mono County Public Health has issued 17,560 total doses of the vaccine- 8,308 of the first dose and 8,159 of the second dose.
This makes 74.1% of Mono County vaccinated with the first dose, and 67.8% of Mono County fully vaccinated.
These numbers put the county ahead of the California state average, which is currently at about 52.5% for fully vaccinated individuals.
Wheeler claims an 83% fully-vaccinated population is what isneeded to reach herd immunity against the Delta variant.
The vaccines are 64-94% effective against the Delta variant for individuals. However, they are 96% effective in preventing severe disease, hospitalization, and death.
There have been eight documented “breakthrough” cases in Mono County, meaning people who are fully vaccinated and still managed to contract the virus. However, none of the cases resulted in hospitalization or death.
Over 99% of deaths seen nationally are in unvaccinated individuals.
There are currently approximately 3,000 people in Mono County who are not vaccinated but are eligible.
“The pandemic is quickly becoming the pandemic of the unvaccinated,” said Wheeler. “We’re seeing that certain minority populations and young people are those who are not getting vaccinated at this time in our community, for various reasons.”
Mono County recently received a $350,000 grant from GovOps towards vaccination outreach for disproportionately-affected populations. It can be used for such things as creating events, incentives, etc.
Wheeler emphasized the importance of debunking misinformation surrounding unintended side effects from the vaccination, and Mono County plans to launch a full-blown public information campaign to assist in this cause.
There is also a risk of a possible pediatric surge of cases here in Mono County for unvaccinated children.
“We’re in a situation up here where we don’t have a nice pediatric ICU or NICU, and you can’t just train a pediatric doctor to be an ICU doctor. It’s a very specific skill set,” he said.
“We are in a good place with this variant,” said Wheeler. “I am just concerned about the people who are unvaccinated.”
Mono County is offering walk-in vaccine clinics over the next several weeks at the following locations:
-7/23/2: Bridgeport Clinic 11am-1pm at Bridgeport Memorial Hall (73 North School Street)
-8/06/21: Mammoth Lakes Clinic 10am-12pm at Mammoth High School (365 Sierra Park Road)
-8/27/21: Mammoth Lakes Clinic 11am-1pm at Mammoth High School (365 Sierra Park Road).
Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson will all be available.
For more information, visit Mono County’s Coronavirus portal: https://coronavirus.monocounty.ca.gov/.