Cases: Vaccines continue to protect against the Delta surge. Courtesy image

After weeks of alarming case rates that triggered an unwelcome backtrack in L.A. County’s return to normalcy, Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer has positive news to share: the ongoing Covid-19 spike shows signs of slowing.

“Our daily average case rate without the seven day lag is now 21 cases per 100,000. That’s a slight decrease from last week’s case rate of 24 cases per 100,000,” said Ferrer. “This does suggest to us that our rise in cases may be a leveling out.”

Cases are still continuing to increase but they are doing so at a slower weekly rate. This suggests that the County is approaching the peak of its spike and that decreasing rates of transmission may soon lead to a drop in case rates.

Testing positivity rates in L.A. County are also trending in the right direction, falling from 5.8 percent last week to 4.7 percent this week.

Ferrer has reason to believe that these promising indicators are in part a result of the indoor mask mandate, which was introduced on July 18.

“At the time of our recent health officer order requiring universal masking indoors, we noted that our cases had doubled every 10 days,” said Ferrer.

“What we’re seeing now is a much smaller increase in our cases over a couple of weeks, which is what we’re hoping for 10 days after implementing an effective public health measure.”

During the week of July 25 to Aug 1, following LA’s mask mandate, weekly cases rose by 22 percent from around 16,000 to 20,000. During this same time period in the rest of the state, where no such mandate was in effect, cases rose by 57 percent, from 29,400 to over 46,000.

“Although there may be reasons contributing to these differences beyond the masking, data from around the world and from our county has repeatedly shown that masking is a valuable layer of protection against transmission of respiratory viruses,” said Ferrer.

The increase in cases is due to the dominance of the more contagious Delta variant of Covid-19, which last week comprised 96 percent of all strains analyzed by the Department of Public Health.

The vast majority of Covid-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths continued to be among the unvaccinated and partially vaccinated populations.

Between May 1 and July 17, 3,185 people were hospitalized and only 8 percent or 251 people were fully vaccinated. Of the fully vaccinated population that was hospitalized, only 25 percent of patients were logged as having Covid-19 be the primary cause of their hospitalization.

In this same time period, over 95 percent of all Covid-19 deaths in L.A. County residents were among unvaccinated or partially vaccinated people.

Currently 61 percent of all L.A. County residents have received at least one vaccine dose and 53 percent are fully vaccinated. The highest rate of vaccination is among those 65 and older at 90 percent. This rate falls with every younger age group reaching a low of 53 percent for residents ages 12 to 17.

The past three weeks have been marked by a slight uptick in first vaccine doses administered. Between July 26 and Aug 1, 81,241 doses were administered across the County, which is an over 7,000 dose increase from the previous week.

“It is a tremendously important time for people to get vaccinated, so we’re grateful for the signs of increased vaccination uptake,” said Ferrer.

Broad disparities continue in vaccination rates between different racial and ethnic groups. As of Aug 1, 78 percent of all eligible Asian residents have received at least 1 vaccine dose compared to 67 percent of white residents, 56 percent of Latinx residents and 47 percent of Black residents.