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Coronavirus

Delta variant causes COVID numbers to soar, Pfizer wants booster shot ok

Public Health officials are saying that the Delta variant has been the most commonly tested variant in L.A. County since the beginning of June

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Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health reported a 165% increase of new cases Thursday, up from last week, with 839 new cases of COVID-19. The County’s daily average case rate is now 3.5 cases per 100,000 people, an increase from last week’s rate of 1.74 cases per 100,000. Thursday’s daily test positivity rate is 2.5%, also an increase from last week’s rate of 1.2%.

Public Health officials are saying that the Delta variant has been the most commonly tested variant in L.A. County since the beginning of June, now accounting for the majority of variants of concern identified by labs. 

The rising proportion of Delta among tested variants of concern is consistent with what other parts of the U.S. are seeing, and for certain represents increased circulation of the variant.  Given that slightly under 4 million residents in L.A. County are not yet vaccinated, the risk of increased spread remains high.  The data to date suggests fully vaccinated people are well protected from severe infections with the Delta variant.

“The data makes it increasingly clear that vaccines remain the most important tool we have to keep COVID-19 transmission and the incubation of variants low. Overall COVID-19 trends are going in the wrong direction for everyone, and are particularly concerning given the proliferation of the Delta variant,” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, Director of Public Health. “The most powerful way to protect those in hard-hit communities, many of whom are essential workers, is to close vaccination gaps. We continue to emphasize workers’ rights to safety because workers need to be able to do their jobs without unnecessary risks to themselves, their families and their friends.  COVID-19 remains a highly infectious virus that is easily transmitted, particularly indoors.”

On Wednesday, Public Health, with support from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, launched the COVID-19 Community Ambassador Program to visibly represent, capture the support, and actively engage the broader community in best practices to further prevent and slow the spread of COVID-19 in Los Angeles County.

To become a COVID-19 Community Ambassador, residents view a 30-minute training video, which provides helpful insights on COVID-19 prevention and infection control. Once the training is complete, residents receive a Certificate of Completion along with a free branded community ambassador face covering, a pin, and a COVID-19 Directory Card for commonly used phone numbers in English or Spanish. The program includes additional video training modules, virtual town halls with Public Health experts, and updates on relevant topics such as the COVID-19 vaccine, variants, and guidance for staying safe and keeping communities safe.  To date, nearly 3,000 residents are COVID-19 Community Ambassadors.

This program is available to all Los Angeles County residents and there is no age restriction for participation. The COVID-19 Community Ambassador Program does not formally train or deputize residents to take personal action in instances of non-compliance.  To learn more and become a COVID-19 Community Ambassador, visit: http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/CommunityAmbassadorProgram/ 

As the Delta variant aggressively spreads in all 50 states, CNN has reported that Covid-19 vaccines saved hundreds of thousands of lives and prevented more than a million hospitalizations in the United States, according to new estimates from researchers at Yale University and the Commonwealth Fund.

The researchers compared actual trends in Covid-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths against a modeled trajectory of what those trends would have been if there had been no vaccinations.

By the end of June, the researchers estimate that there would have been about 279,000 additional deaths due to Covid-19 — about 46% more than there were — and as many as 1.25 million additional hospitalizations if there were no vaccinations.

After months of research, Pfizer is about to seek U.S. authorization for a third dose of its Covid-19 vaccine, saying Thursday that another shot within 12 months could dramatically boost immunity and maybe help ward off the latest worrisome coronavirus mutant, NBC News reported.

Research from multiple countries shows the Pfizer shot and other widely used Covid-19 vaccines offer strong protection against the highly contagious Delta variant, which is spreading rapidly around the world and now accounts for most new U.S. infections.

On Thursday, Pfizer’s Dr. Mikael Dolsten told The Associated Press that early data from the company’s booster study suggests people’s antibody levels jump five- to 10-fold after a third dose, compared to their second dose months earlier.

President Biden pushed for all eligible Americans to get Covid vaccinations Tuesday
(Screenshot via NBC News on YouTube)

President Joe Biden on Tuesday once again pushed for all eligible Americans to get Covid vaccinations, stressing the importance of being protected against the highly transmissible Delta variant.

Despite the U.S. being on track to hit 160 million people fully vaccinated in the coming days, Biden said, millions remain unvaccinated against Covid, “and because of that, their communities are at risk, their friends are at risk, the people they care about are at risk.”

“This is an even bigger concern because of the Delta variant,” the president said.

“It seems to me, this should cause everybody to think twice,” Biden said. But “the good news is that our vaccinations are highly effective,” including against the Delta variant, he added.

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Coronavirus

CDC: 85% of gay & lesbian adults in U.S. are vaccinated against COVID

Data on COVID-19 vaccination among LGBTQ persons limited because of the lack of routine SOGI data collection at the national & state levels

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Photo Credit: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/GSA

ATLANTA – A new study report released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (CDC), found that found 85.4% of gay and lesbian Americans above age 18 had received at least one vaccine dose as of October 2021.

The study, conducted from August 29 until October 30, 2021, also found that by comparison, only 76.3% of heterosexuals reported receiving at least an initial dose by the same date.

The report noted that Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) populations have higher prevalence of health conditions associated with severe COVID-19 illness compared with non-LGBT populations.

The potential for low vaccine confidence and coverage among LGBT populations is of concern because these persons historically experience challenges accessing, trusting, and receiving health care services

Data on COVID-19 vaccination among LGBT persons are limited, in part because of the lack of routine data collection on sexual orientation and gender identity at the national and state levels.

In March of 2021, the Blade reported the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has revealed deep-seated inequities in health care for communities of color and amplifies social and economic factors that have contributed to those communities being hit hardest, and Mega-vaccination centers set up by California health officials and the Federal Emergency Management Agency have been addressing and tracking the issue- the LGBTQ communities are still not being tracked.

This lack of data collection has frustrated and angered California State Senator Scott Wiener who authored a bill last year that passed through the legislature and signed by Governor Gavin Newsom last Fall that mandates gathering sexual orientation and gender identity data related to the COVID testing in California.

“We’re one year into the pandemic, and LGBTQ people continue to be erased in our public health response to COVID-19 — similar to our invisibility throughout history. No government is successfully tracking COVID-19 cases in the LGBTQ community, despite a law I wrote mandating that California do so,” Weiner told the Blade. “And, we now know that LGBTQ people are more vulnerable to COVID-19. We’ve also just learned that vaccination demographic data doesn’t include LGBTQ data. It simply shocking that in 2021, progressive health agencies continue to forget about our community,” he added.

The CDC also noted that gay and lesbian adults were more likely to be concerned about COVID-19 and to believe in the safety and efficacy of vaccines.

“We know that the prevalence of certain health conditions associated with severe COVID-19 illness, such as cancer, smoking, and obesity, are higher in LGBT populations, and access to health care continues to be an issue for some people in the LGBT community,” Dr. A.D. McNaghten, a member of the CDC’s COVID-19 Emergency Response Team and corresponding author of the study, told ABC News. “We wanted to see if vaccination coverage among LGBT persons was the same as non-LGBT persons.”

The CDC data recorded that bisexual and transgender adults had similar vaccination rates to heterosexual adults with 72.6% of bisexual adults fully vaccinated by the end of October, as were 71.4% of transgender adults. The numbers however for Black and Hispanic lesbian women had lower rates of vaccination at 57.9% and 72.6%, respectively, compared to Black and Hispanic heterosexual women at 75.6% and 80.5%, respectively.

Higher percentages of gay or lesbian adults and bisexual adults reported that they thought COVID-19 vaccine was very or somewhat important to protect oneself (90.8% and 86.8%, respectively) compared with heterosexual adults (80.4%), and higher percentages of adults who identified as transgender or nonbinary reported they thought COVID-19 vaccine was very or somewhat important to protect oneself (83.2%) compared with those who did not identify as transgender or nonbinary (80.7%).

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White House orders distribution of 400 million free N95 masks

Dr. Tom Inglesby, the administration’s Covid testing coordinator; “We know that these masks provide better protection than cloth masks”

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President Joe Biden (Blade file photo/screenshot)

WASHINGTON – As the latest surge of the highly contagious and easily transmissible Omicron variant of the coronavirus continues to cause a rise in hospitalizations, especially among unvaccinated adults and children, the White House announced Wednesday it is making 400 million N95 masks available for free at thousands of locations across the nation.

The plan an admkistartion official said, is to start shipping the nonsurgical masks to pharmacies and community health centers to distribute this week, which will come from the Strategic National Stockpile.

In an interview with NBC News, Dr. Tom Inglesby, the administration’s Covid testing coordinator, said, “We know that these masks provide better protection than cloth masks.”

The N95 masks will be made available to everybody, and recipients will not be prioritized based on vulnerability to Covid, income or other criteria. Inglesby said the administration was “confident that people who want to access them will be able to access them,” but it was not immediately clear how many masks a person could receive at one time.

On January 13, President Joe Biden had announced a plan to have the government distribute 1 billion rapid, at-home COVID-19 tests free to Americans, along with the N95 masks, as the administration works to fight the spiraling upward spike in coronavirus cases.

The White House website to order free at-home Covid tests went live Tuesday. The website says: “Every home in the U.S. is eligible to order 4 free at-home COVID-19 tests. The tests are completely free. Orders will usually ship in 7-12 days.”

A White House official said Wednesday that the distribution of 400 million masks would be the largest deployment of personal protective equipment in U.S. history.

Inglesby told NBC News that the administration was “absolutely preparing for the possibility of additional variants in the future” and that people could expect the government to make N95 masks “more and more available.”

Biden announces free masks, tests to fight omicron:

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Coronavirus

COVID-19 Cases increase by nearly 10 times in one month

While hospitalizations continue to climb, Public Health data shows that many positive cases are admitted for reasons other than COVID

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Graphic courtesy of UCLA/Centers for Disease Control & Prevention

LOS ANGELES – A total of 31,576 new COVID-19 cases were documented on Monday — up ten times the number of cases reported on Dec. 17, 2021, when there were 3,360 new cases recorded the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health reported Monday.

There are  4,564 people with COVID-19 currently hospitalized, nearly 6 times the number from one month ago when 772 people were hospitalized. The daily positivity rate is 16.5%, more than 8 times the 2% daily positivity rate on December 17th.

Just one week ago, the county surpassed 2 million total COVID-19 cases, with the figure reaching 2,289,045 cases as of Monday.

“On this national holiday where we celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, we remember his deep commitment to health equity.  As Reverend King memorably said, ‘Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and the most inhuman because it often results in physical death,’ ” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, Director of Public Health.

“Tragically, we have seen this play out in real life and very clearly over the past two years with the disparate impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on people of color. From the onset of the pandemic, communities of color have experienced the greatest devastation from COVID-19 in Los Angeles County and throughout the nation,” she added.

“The good news is that while hospitalizations continue to climb, Public Health data shows that many positive cases are admitted for reasons other than COVID but, are identified with COVID when tested for COVID upon hospital admission,” the health department said in a statement released last week.

As of Friday, more than 80% of all adult ICU beds in the county were occupied.

There are also 27 new deaths due to COVID-19 in Los Angeles County and 31,576 new positive cases.

The public health department also noted that while the number of children hospitalized with the virus remains low, the number of them admitted to L.A. County hospitals “significantly increased” over the past month, with the largest increase among children younger than 5 years old.

The increase mirrors trends seen nationwide for the age group — the only one not yet eligible for the vaccine.

The county also saw its highest coronavirus death rate in nearly 10 months over this past week, with an average of 40 COVID-19 deaths a day.

“From the onset of the pandemic, communities of color have experienced the greatest devastation from COVID-19 in Los Angeles County and throughout the nation. As we continue to implement strategies – enforcing worker protections through our Health Officer Orders, providing resources needed by many to survive the impact of the pandemic, funding community-based organizations in hard hit areas to serve as trusted public health messengers, and increasing vaccination access in under-sourced neighborhoods – we also need to come together to address the impact that racism, historical disinvestment, and social marginalization have on COVID-19 outcomes,” Ferrer said.

“While these conditions predate the pandemic, without deliberate collective actions to address the root causes of health inequities, we are unlikely to close the gaps we have documented for 2 long years,” she added.

California has recorded more than 7 million coronavirus cases after its fastest accumulation of reported infections in the history of the pandemic, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The unprecedented count, recorded in California’s databases late Monday, comes one week after the state tallied its 6 millionth coronavirus case.

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