Risk: Residents are being asked to consider their risk factors for activity. Courtesy image

Daniel Farr, SMDP Staff Writer

After weeks of worry over the impact of a more infectious Delta variant on the County’s COVID-19 fight, data presented this week suggests trends are heading in a positive direction but officials warned the Labor Day holiday could jeopardize progress as could abandonment of safety protocols like masks, distancing and vaccine advocacy.

The seven day case rate of transmission in L.A. County remains high but it actually fell by 16% this week, with the seven day cumulative case rate at 159 new cases per 100,000 residents, according to health officials.

This is the second consecutive week officials reported a small decrease in the overall case rate with a 22% decrease from the peak of 204 cases per 100,000 people on Aug. 19 according to Dr. Barbara Ferrer, the Director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

Hospitalizations and deaths have also declined.

“There are 1,673 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19, which is a small decrease of about 58 people. This past week we did see a very small decline, about 11% from the prior week to a seven day average of 17 daily deaths,” Ferrer said.

Communities of color continue to report some of the highest case rates in the county due to their roles as essential workers and low vaccination rates.

“When examining the data on hospitalizations, the highest hospitalization rates are among unvaccinated Black residents, followed by unvaccinated Latinx.” Ferrer said.

Older unvaccinated adults are the largest demographic for hospitalizations. Unvaccinated adults 50 and over are more than 18 times likelier to be hospitalized than their vaccinated counterparts.

Ferrer noted if L.A. County can reach an 80% fully vaccinated rate, “It would be a great step forward and would provide a lot of additional protection.” Currently, 56% of L.A. county is fully vaccinated.

She said more work is needed to overcome vaccine hesitancy among those who are in most need of the protection.

“It’s not a coincidence that the communities with the lowest vaccination uptake are the ones who have historically had the lowest access to high-quality, affirming, respectful medical care,” she said. “And while repairing the damage caused by structural racism will not happen overnight. We need to see faster gains to turn around the disproportionality in cases, hospitalizations and deaths.”

Entering the Labor Day weekend, many Santa Monicans will have opportunities to engage in a variety of activities with friends and many community members will be asking whether it’s safe to do the things people want to do when making plans.

Ferrer said it might be helpful to think about the different places where risk comes from when you’re engaging in activity.

A low risk activity would be celebrating outside with a few people you know are fully vaccinated, while a higher risk activity would be going to the fair where proof of vaccine is not required and where people are not wearing masks while eating or drinking. Even when outside, gathering in a place where there’s hundreds of people is risky.

Another risk is how many people, if any, are unvaccinated in your home. Having an unvaccinated infant is a lot different than having multiple unvaccinated adults at home.

Ferrer said if everyone engaged in only lower risk activities, regardless of their personal risk areas, very few people would transmit or catch COVID-19, but out of necessity, or sometimes out of desire, people do engage in higher risk activities, including people with high personal risk.

“Think about the risk of the activities you want to take part in,” she said.

daniel@smdp.com