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The Delta variant prevented Biden’s July 4 COVID vaccine goal

The highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus continues to circulate in California, further emphasizing the importance of the vaccine as the state and nation fast to celebrate the fourth of July, officials say.

President Biden has already set a goal a holiday goal – “Let’s celebrate our independence as a nation, and our independence against this virus,” he said said in early May – but the fireworks shown with backyard barbecues will instead be held amid the threat posed by Delta, which is perhaps twice as transmissible as the conventional coronavirus strains.

The good news, officials say, is that the available COVID-19 vaccines appear to offer great protection against all circulating variants, including Delta. The bad news is that less than half of all Americans, and only about 50% of California, are fully vaccinated at this point.

“Any suffering or death from COVID-19 is tragic. With vaccines available across the country, the suffering and loss we see now is almost entirely avoidable,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

During a federal briefing Thursday, Walensky said that an estimated 25% of new coronavirus sequencing cases nationwide are now the Delta variant, and he hopes it will eventually become the country’s dominant strain.

Also worrying is that about 1,000 U.S. counties, mostly in the Southeast and Midwest, have vaccination coverage of less than 30%.

“As the Delta variant continues to spread across the country, we expect to see increased transmission in these communities unless we can vaccinate more people now,” he said.

California, as a whole, measured up well in terms of COVID-19 vaccine – with nearly 41 million total doses administered, according to the data compiled by the Times.

However, these vaccines have not gone to arms at equal rates statewide. In seven of California’s 58 counties, more than 60% of residents are fully vaccinated, while in 10 other counties, less than a third of residents can say the same, Times data shows.

“The risk of COVID-19 exposure and infection will remain in California until we reach community immunity and vaccination,” said Dr. Tomás Aragón, director of the California Department of Public Health and state health officer. “The COVID-19 vaccine provides excellent protection against serious disease, even for the Delta variant.”

Circulation of the variant – which was first identified in India and is also known as B.1.617.2 – has increased rapidly since it appeared in California.

Delta made up just 1.8% of coronavirus cases analyzed in April, the state public health data show.

This proportion jumped to 4.7% in May. As of last week, the variant made up 14.5% of sequential samples during June.

On Tuesday, Aragón said the variant now accounts for about 23% of sample cases, “and we anticipate this rate will increase.”

Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said the Delta variant continues to spread in LA County as well.

“The rising proportion of Delta among sequence variants of concern is consistent with what other parts of the U.S. are seeing and for certain represents increased traffic in the variant,” he said Thursday.

The potency of infection in the Delta variant was one of the factors that prompted Los Angeles County this week to recommend that even vaccinated residents resume wearing face cover in public indoor environments as a precaution.

World Health Organization also said people should always “wear a mask, especially in crowded environments, closed and poorly ventilated,” even after being vaccinated.

However, the CDC continue to advise that those who are fully vaccinated do not need to wear masks in most situations.

Dr Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s chief expert on infectious diseases, said Thursday that the age recommendation remains, “If you get the vaccine you have a high degree of protection, so you don’t need to wear a mask either indoors or outdoors . “

But, he added, local leaders have the flexibility to make recommendations based on the requirements of their communities.

Circulation of the Delta variant locally is all the more concerning given that LA County already follows slight, but remarkable, upticks in its coronavirus metrics.

“The community transmission is still extraordinarily low in LA County,” Ferrer said this week. But he added, “we had increases across the board last week.”

On June 15, California Reopening Day, the most populous county in the country recorded 210 new coronavirus cases, and the proportion of tests conducted back positive was plan around 0.5%.

Both of those metrics doubled by Wednesday, with the county reporting 422 new cases with a positivity test rate of 1.2%.

The seven-day positivity post statewide effectively doubled over the same period, according to the California Department of Public Health.

Ferrer previously said one factor that could inflate the positivity rate is that schools have been left out for the summer, which significantly shrinks the number of people undergoing routine monitoring tests. This means the test pool is not only deeper, but likely filled more majority with residents with symptoms or who have been exposed to someone with COVID-19.

In the past week, California has reported an average of 888 new cases of coronavirus daily – virtually flat two weeks ago, Times data show.

Even with the recent increase, officials have been quick to notice that LA County numbers remain well below the enticing heights seen during the fall-and-winter wave. And, given the level of vaccine protection, many experts believe a return to those dark days is unlikely.

But the surest way to prevent this possibility is to break the transmission chain. Less new infection also means less opportunity for the mutated coronavirus in potentially harmful ways.

“I think we can all agree that it would take a lot of unforeseen events to get us back to where we were last year – and the biggest would be some new variant of concern that the vaccines don’t work against,” Ferrer said. “That would be a disastrous scenario for us, and an easy one.”

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