Beach Cities surge in COVID-19 cases among unvaccinated continues
by Mark McDermott
The Beach Cities, despite their relatively high vaccination rates, are experiencing a surge of COVID-19 infections, resulting from the combination of the extremely contagious Delta variant and lingering unvaccinated populations.
The last week saw increases in new COVID-19 cases in Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, and Redondo Beach that brought each city to levels not approached since the post-holiday surge in January. Through July 25, Redondo Beach has registered 212 new cases this month, Manhattan Beach 116, and Hermosa Beach 85. July will almost certainly total the highest case totals registered in each city since January, and more new cases will be experienced this month than in July 2020.
The surge is in keeping with the rest of Los Angeles County, which last week experienced four straight days with more than 2,500 new cases reported. According to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, hospitalization numbers also more than doubled in two weeks, reaching 891 people on July 26, up from 372 on July 12.
Barbara Ferrer, LA County’s Director of Public Health, said that though the hospitalizations are alarming, they are no way comparable to what occurred last winter, when more than 8,000 people were hospitalized.
“While it is critically important to pay attention to the rapid acceleration of cases we are currently seeing, most of which are a consequence of infection with the highly transmissible Delta variant, we should also note that this pandemic is now not behaving the same way that it was in the month before vaccines were widely available,” Ferrer said. “During the winter surge last year, when case rates were increasing four- or five-fold over the course of a month, we saw hospitalizations multiplying in direct proportion to case rates. Today, even though our case rates have increased by up to nine times, hospitalization rates are, at most, doubling. Having half of our County population vaccinated is largely responsible for this positive trend. It’s because of the differences in trends that we are hopeful our hospitals and healthcare providers will not suffer the same strain they endured last winter.”
But Ferrer also warned that the Delta variant is “one of the most aggressive and infectious respiratory diseases known” and makes up over 80 percent of new cases in LA County. Statewide, 82.8 percent of coronavirus cases in July are the new variant.
Governor Gavin Newsom, at a press conference in Oakland Monday, announced measures intended to address the spread of the new variant, including a requirement that all state workers and all health care workers have proof of vaccination or else be required to be tested weekly and wear masks indoors.
Newsom was blunt in his assessment, and warned that the Delta variant could easily be followed by even more dangerously evolved novel coronavirus variants. He did not rule out more aggressive measures.
“We’re mindful of the efficiency of the Delta virus,” he said. “We’re mindful of the increase in case rates and hospitalization rates in this state because too many people have chosen to live with this virus. We’re at a point in this pandemic where individuals’ choice not to get vaccinated is now impacting the rest of us in a profound and devastating and deadly way.”
Newsom said nearly 75 percent of eligible California residents have now been vaccinated. Children 12 and under are not yet eligible but are expected to be by year’s end. The Governor said the focus now is on those remaining 25 percent, including a new program to help family physicians address vaccine hesitancy, which he blamed on “the right wing echo chamber” of disinformation.
“We are exhausted by the politicization of this pandemic…. It’s unconscionable, and it needs to be called out,” Newsom said. “It’s a choice to live with this virus. And with all due respect, you don’t have the choice to go out and drink and drive and put everybody else’s lives at risk. That’s the equivalent of this moment. With the deadliness and efficiency of the Delta virus, you’re putting other people’s innocent people’s lives at risk, you’re putting businesses at risk and you’re putting at risk the ability to educate our kids by getting them back in-person, full-time for in person instruction.”
Newsom said the urgency cannot be overstated. He said the state is currently tracking more than a dozen new variants.
“The longer we wait to extinguish this disease, the more likely we will be facing another variant that the vaccines may not be as effective in addressing that mutation,” Newsom said.
According to LA County data, the Beach Cities are slightly ahead of the state in vaccination rates, with 79.4 of eligible Hermosa Beach residents vaccinated, 81.8 percent in Manhattan Beach, and 79.5 percent in Redondo Beach.
The state registered a 16 percent increase in vaccination rates last week. Mark Ghaly, the state Health and Human Services secretary, attributed this to the Delta variant.
“I’m certain that people who were saying, ‘I’ll wait a little bit longer to get vaccinated’ are realizing that the Delta variant has really changed the game a bit,” said Ghaly, speaking after the Governor. “This is not, as somebody said, your grandmother’s COVID anymore. It’s not the COVID we dealt with a year ago. This is a very different beast. And so now is the time to get that [vaccination and see the 16 percent hit 20 percent and 25 percent…so we can get through this once and for all.”
To find a vaccination site near you, visit: www.VaccinateLACounty.com.