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Coronavirus

Concerns with Delta variant prompts restaurant closures as COVID surges

Public Health confirmed 2,767 new cases of COVID an 80% increase over last week. It was also second day in a row 2,000 cases in a single day.

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LA County reorders mask mandate as coronavirus cases explode (Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles)

LOS ANGELES – The alarming surge in coronavirus infections continues to accelerate as cases climb to levels not seen since the beginning of this year when the greater Los Angeles region was in perpetual crisis mode with hospitals overwhelmed.

Los Angeles County continues to see a rapid rise in COVID-19 transmission countywide with cases doubling over the last 10 days. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health confirmed 2,767 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday; an 80% increase over last week. It was also the second day in a row that Public Health recorded over 2,000 cases in a single day.

Even as the County’s Public Health Department reordered facial coverings indoors, which included fully vaccinated Angelenos, the warp speed at which the Delta variant has spread has now caused local businesses, particularly in the hospitality and restaurant industry to reclose.

“Out of an abundance of caution for the health and safety of our guests and staff, we have decided to close,” Bottega Louie in West Hollywood announced on Instagram. The restaurant noted that the closure, albeit for a few days, was due to increasing Covid-19 cases. “We apologize for any inconvenience and will keep you apprised of our re-opening date,” the notification continued.

The test positivity rate on Thursday was 5.2%; an increase from the rate of 1.2% on June 15 when physical distancing restrictions and capacity limits were lifted across all sectors by Governor Gavin Newsom.

Of the 27 current outbreaks of three or more cases reported at non-residential settings countywide, eight are at eateries or bars, according to the L.A. County Department of Public Health.

Another popular eatery, the Village Idiot in the Fairfax neighborhood temporarily closed because a fully vaccinated staff member tested positive for the virus, according to their Instagram page.

Public Health has detailed the rise of the Delta variant among strains sequenced in the Los Angeles County area for weeks. While emerging data affirms that fully vaccinated people are well protected from severe infections with Delta variants, people with only one vaccine are not as well-protected, and there is increased evidence that a small number of fully vaccinated individuals can become infected and may be able to infect others.

From July 11 to July 17, the number of sequenced Delta variants was 201, 84% of all sequences collected that week. This is consistent with the rise of Delta nationwide: earlier this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that Delta strains accounted for 83% of circulating COVID-19. Given that about 4 million residents in L.A. County are not yet vaccinated, the risk of increased spread of this variant within L.A. County remains high.

During a question and answer statement after a meeting on the pending infrastructure bill in Congress, in answer to a White House Pool reporter’s question on what conversations he’s had with health officials about possibly changing the mask guidelines for vaccinated Americans, President Joe Biden responded; 

“We have a pandemic among the non vaccinated. …If you are vaccinated, you are safe. If you’re vaccinated, you have over a 98% chance of never catching the virus at all. If you catch it, you’re likely, the overwhelming proof so far, is you’re not going to be hospitalized, you’re not going to be sick, you’re probably going to have no signs that you had it and you’re not going to be die. It’s a simple proposition. What they’re doing is they’re going to be investigating any aspect of any change that could or might take place. But the vaccine are good against all of the variants out there, including the delta variant.”

Despite the actions taken by Los County to reorder masks, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has not changed its guidance on mask wearing.

Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, said that the Delta variant of coronavirus “is now spreading with incredible efficiency” in the US and that, compared with the original coronavirus strain that broke out in the US in early 2020, this variant is “more aggressive”.

“It is one of the most infectious respiratory viruses we know of and that I have seen in my 20-year career,” she said at a White House briefing on Thursday, noting that the US is “not out of the woods”.

Walensky warned; “We are at another pivotal moment in this pandemic, with cases rising again and some hospitals reaching their capacity in some areas.”

The Delta variant now accounts for more than 83% of new coronavirus cases across the United States. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the chief medical advisor to President Biden, said Thursday that there are some areas of the country where Delta accounts for more than 90% of new infections.

“And if you look at the recent seven-day or 14-day averages of cases, for example, the cases are up by, like, 195%. The hospitalizations are up 46%. And the 14-day average for deaths are up 42%…it’s not the direction we want it to be,” Fauci told NPR News, adding: “We’ve got to do much better.”

Speaking to reporters the CDC Director said; “Fully vaccinated people are protected from severe illness,” she said but added that in areas with high numbers of cases, low vaccination rates and where the Delta variant is rising “you should be wearing a mask if you are unvaccinated. If you are vaccinated you get exceptional protection from the vaccine but you have the opportunity to make the personal choice to add extra layers of protection if you so choose.”

On Wednesday, Erin Myers and Steve Kuzj reported for the KTLA 5 Morning News that there are now some Southern California bars requiring customers to show proof of vaccination to enter in hopes of stopping the spread of the highly contagious delta variant.

Also, according to the local cultural scene media outlet L.A. Taco, that list is rapidly growing.

Serious Setbacks Across U.S. With Covid Infections & Hospitalizations from NBC News. WATCH:

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L.A. County on track to bring back mandatory indoor masking

If LA county stays in CDC designated High Community Level for 2 consecutive weeks officials would implement a universal indoor masking

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Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health indicated that if the upward trend in coronavirus numbers continues, due to the increased circulation of the more infectious BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron subvariants coupled with increased community spread, officials may order a return to indoor masks.

On Friday, Public Health said that while the county currently remains at the CDC designated COVID-19 Medium Community Level. There are increasing concerns about the impact of new Omicron sub-variants on transmission and hospitalizations that could result in the County moving into the High Community Level designation sometime later this summer.

Barbara Ferrer, Director of LA County Public Health expressed concern and cautioned Angelenos as the region prepares for the July 4th holiday weekend.

“Since July 4 is right around the corner and many of us are looking forward to celebrating Independence Day with family and friends, it is important to remember that many of our loved ones may be older adults, or have serious underlying health conditions, or not yet been vaccinated and boosted,” Ferrer said.

“Given the rising number of COVID cases and hospitalizations, and the increased circulation of the more infectious BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants, it is extra important to take steps that reduce the risk of transmission especially over the long holiday weekend; this helps us protect ourselves, our families, and our community,” She continued adding, “With a little planning, you can have a great time celebrating while keeping each other safe. Please be sure to remind friends and family to stay home and skip the celebration if they feel sick or have tested positive.  It is also a great idea for everyone to test themselves before getting together, ideally on the day of the gathering. It is always best to celebrate outdoors, and if people come indoors for part of the gathering, wearing a mask is advisable, particularly if there are individuals at high risk of severe illness should they become infected.”

LA County Public Health pointed out in a statement that six of the seven Early Alert metrics Public Health are tracking continue to convey cause for Medium or High Concern. Moreover, in the past week, four Early Alert Signals moved upward in the level of concern: The case rate in the lowest income areas and the number of new outbreaks at Skilled Nursing Facilities per week, both moved up to High Concern.

The number of new outbreaks in settings for People Experiencing Homelessness is now at Medium Concern. And the number of worksite clusters increased, moving from Medium to High Concern for the first time since Public Health started tracking this metric in early March.

There was also an uptick in the percentage of Emergency Department Visits. The only measure indicating Low Concern is the number of sewer systems with a two-fold increase in viral load.

The first of two hospital metrics in the CDC Community Levels Framework is the seven-day total of new hospital admissions per 100,000, which rose this past week to 8.1 admissions per 100,000 people. This is a 56% increase compared to one month ago. The second hospital metric, the seven-day average for the proportion of staffed inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients, also increased this past week to 4.2%.

If the county moves into the CDC designated High Community Level and remains there for two consecutive weeks, the county would implement a universal indoor masking requirement for everyone age 2 and older in LA County as a safety measure aligned with the CDC framework. The safety measure would remain in effect until the county returned to the CDC Medium Community Level designation, or lower, for two consecutive weeks. 

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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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