LA County reports 2,550 new coronavirus cases, biggest one-day total since February

Los Angeles County Public Health officials reported 2,550 new cases of coronavirus on Wednesday, July 21, the biggest single day of infections since February.

The latest official daily tally was a 20-fold increase since June 21, when the county reported 124 cases, marking the influence of the Delta variant and the continuing challenge of vaccinating more of the county’s residents.

Seven more fatalities were posted, bringing the total dead to 24,594 since the pandemic began. The total infected rose early 1.3 million people, a number thought to be much higher by some experts.

Together, the virus is landing younger — 83% are younger than 50 and 65% are between 18 and 49 — and unvaccinated people in L.A.-area hospitals.  The state’s tracker noted 60 more hospitalizations from the day before, climbing to 645, with 140 in intensive care.

Among the latest fatal human toll, two people were between 65 and 79, three people were between the ages of 50 and 64, and one person was between the ages of 30 and 49, according to the county.

“Because of the more infectious Delta variant and the intermingling of unmasked individuals where vaccination status is unknown, unfortunately, we are seeing a surge in cases in L.A. County that looks somewhat similar to last summer,” county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement. “An important difference this summer is that with millions of people vaccinated, we are hopeful we will avoid similar increases in deaths that were experienced last year.

“By adding a mask requirement for everyone indoors, the risk for transmission of the virus will be reduced, and with increases in the number of people getting vaccinated, we should be able to get back to slowing the spread,” she said. “Sensible masking indoors adds a layer of protection to the powerful vaccines. It is important that we work together to drive down transmission so that there will be much less community transmission when schools reopen.”

Among cities with independent health departments: Pasadena reported 20 more new cases for a total of 11,593; the city’s death toll remained 351.  Long Beach reported a total of 949 deaths since the pandemic’s start and 54,890 new cases.

Even amid the gloomy statistics, there’s hope, officials said, given just enough immunity in the population and a rekindled mask mandate, that the region won’t experience a massive spike in deaths that accompanied past increases.

Ferrer offered condolences and concern about how similar this summer’s pattern of case increases is to last summer. But here words were tinged with a note of optimism.

“An important difference this summer is that with millions of people vaccinated, we are hopeful we will avoid similar increases in deaths that were experienced last year,” she said in a statement accompanying her daily report.

During a Senate hearing on Tuesday, Centers for Disease Control Director Rochelle Walensky said the Delta variant is responsible for more than 80% of new coronavirus infections, while nearly two-thirds of U.S. counties have vaccine coverage rates under 40%. In L.A. County, 62% of the population has been fully vaccinated, a number experts believe is still too low for a full recovery.

Complicating matters for public health officials, though, is that a large share of unvaccinated Americans believe the COVID-19 vaccine poses a greater risk to their health than the virus itself.

A new survey from Yahoo News/YouGov published in USA Today found that 37% of unvaccinated respondents believe the vaccines represent a greater health risk than COVID-19. Nearly 35% of those surveyed say they’re not sure, and only 29% say getting the virus is more risky than getting vaccinated, according to the Yahoo News/YouGov poll, which reached 1,715 U.S. adults between July 13-15. The survey has a margin of error of 2.7%.

The survey appears to push back on broad agreements among scientists about the safety of the vaccines.

There has also been a barrage of headlines recently highlighting “breakthrough” infections of people already having been infected.

Sports fans are seeing daily reports about infected athletes, from Major League Baseball stars to Summer Olympians.

With the Tokyo Games’ opening ceremonies coming Friday, Kara Eaker, a member of the U.S. women’s gymnastic team tested positive in a training camp just outside Tokyo. She said she’d been vaccinated.

WNBA player Katie Lou Samuelson, a standout at Santa Ana’ Mater Dei High and NCAA champ UConn, pulled out of the Olympics and the 3-on-3 basketball competition after testing positive — also despite being vaccinated.

But public health experts point to overwhelming evidence that the shots are doing exactly what they are supposed to: dramatically reducing severe illness and death.

“When you hear about a breakthrough infection, that doesn’t necessarily mean the vaccine is failing,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious disease specialist, told a worried Senate panel this week. The shots are holding up, he said, even in the face of the highly contagious delta variant that is burning through unvaccinated communities.

The best indicator: U.S. hospitalizations and deaths are nearly all unvaccinated, and real-world data from Britain and Israel support that protection against the worst cases remains strong.

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