LOS ANGELES (CNS) — Los Angeles County's public health director again Wednesday urged cautionary measures while working or attending events indoors, noting that the highly infectious "Delta" strain of COVID-19 is spreading locally and nationally, particularly among unvaccinated people.
The "Delta" variant is blamed for rampant infections in India and other virus hotspots worldwide. While current vaccines are considered effective against the variant, it can spread easily among the unvaccinated population, potentially allowing it to mutate further into a form that could evade vaccine protections.
"Given the significant increase in the circulation of the Delta variant — which is now estimated to be responsible for 20% of cases across the U.S. — sensible public health precautions are recommended at all work sites and mega-events," Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement. "Unless vaccination status can be verified when indoors in crowded places, masks prevent virus transmission.
"Workers that are unvaccinated and working indoors with sustained close contact with others should be provided with a respirator and where appropriate, a solid partition," she said. "Until we get more individuals vaccinated, let's make sure workplaces are as safe as possible."
State regulations for workplaces require unvaccinated workers to wear masks indoors, and employers are required to offer them N95-grade face coverings. Employers are required to keep a log of workers' vaccination status, but it is up to individual businesses to determine if they will mandate workers to show proof of vaccination. Workers who decline to say if they are vaccinated must be considered unvaccinated, and therefore wear a mask.
Masks are also required for all attendees — regardless of vaccination status — at indoor mega-events, which are events with 5,000 or more people, such as an NBA game at Staples Center.
As of last week, 64 cases of the "Delta" variant of COVID-19 had been detected in Los Angeles County, with the numbers growing steadily since late April. Ferrer is scheduled to release updated numbers on Thursday, and she told the county Board of Supervisors this week she expects a "significant increase" in the number.
"Because we, like all other places in the United States and in fact other places in the world where they're seeing the `Delta' variant, it does in fact proliferate very quickly," she told the board. "It is the most infectious variant that has been identified to date here in California, and that means that for those people who are unvaccinated it is going to pose a big risk because it spreads so easily."
According to numbers released Monday, the county has officially surpassed 10 million doses of COVID-19 administered, with 58% of the population aged 16 and over considered fully vaccinated, and 67% of the 16+ population at least partially vaccinated.
Ferrer again noted the lagging rates among the Black and Latino communities when compared to their white and Asian counterparts. The Black and Latino communities also continue to have the highest current rate of infections, hospitalizations and deaths from COVID.
The county Department of Public Health released numbers Wednesday showing that the number of COVID cases among the homeless remains low. At the end of December, there were 630 cases among the homeless being reported weekly, according to the agency. This week, there were 60, and 53 of those infections actually occurred earlier but were only now determined to be among the homeless.
To date, there have been 7,296 COVID cases among the homeless in the county, and 213 deaths. As of this week, 35,296 doses of vaccine have been administered to the homeless.
Incentives aimed at convincing people to get vaccinated are continuing locally. Through Thursday, anyone who gets vaccinated at a site run by the city or county of Los Angeles, or by St. John's Well Child and Family Center, will be entered for a chance to win a pack of 17 tickets to see Pepe Aguilar at Staples Center later this November, or a 20-person VIP experience at Universal Studios Hollywood. Two packs of 17 tickets for the Aguilar concert are up for grabs.
The contest is open to anyone who comes to one of the participating sites for a first dose of vaccine, or anyone who is obtaining a second dose and brings a first-dose patient with them.
The county on Wednesday reported 11 additional COVID-19 deaths, raising the countywide death toll to 24,455. Another 260 cases were confirmed, putting the cumulative total at 1,248,128.
According to state figures, there were 234 people hospitalized in the county due to COVID-19 as of Wednesday, up from 230 on Tuesday. There were 64 people in intensive care, up from 56 the previous day.