LA County reports rising COVID transmission among the unvaccinated young

Los Angeles County's spike in coronavirus cases continue to climb as officials reported another 1,094 new cases of COVID-19 and eight additional deaths.

The number of people hospitalized in Los Angeles County due to the virus is also rising steadily, swelling from 336 on Friday to 373, according to state figures. There were 79 people in intensive care as of Saturday, down from 83 the previous day.

Local health authorities also said Saturday that transmission of COVID-19 is increasing among younger, unvaccinated county residents. Of the 1,094 new cases reported by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, 83% are among people under the age of 50 years old with the highest number of new cases among residents between the ages of 18 and 49 years old, with 70% of new

"As cases increase, the urgency to get more people vaccinated is rising. Nearly 100% of new cases are occurring among those not fully vaccinated,'' County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said.

"All of our COVID-19 vaccines are very effective at protecting you from severe disease from COVID-19 and variants of concern like the Delta variant. We remain focused on equitably bringing vaccines and high-quality health information to all of our L.A. County communities with a particular focus on those communities that have been hard hit by the pandemic.''

The Delta variant is considered responsible for mass infections in India and outbreaks in the United Kingdom and beyond. Federal officials have said the variant is also believed to be responsible for a majority of new infections being reported in the United States -- the vast majority of them among unvaccinated residents.

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Saturday's figures brought the county's totals to 1,256,515 cases and 24,538 fatalities since the pandemic began.

The daily test positivity rate was 2.4%. As of Friday, the rolling seven-day average rate of people testing positive for the virus was 2.4%, down slightly from 2.5% reported Thursday but above the 1.5% rate from a week ago and the 0.3% from mid-June.

Rising case numbers continue to impact the county's Black residents at a much higher rate than other ethnic groups, correlating with dramatically lagging vaccination rates in the Black community. Ferrer said that from the end of May to the end of June, the rate of new infections among Black residents grew from 38 per 100,000 residents to 65 per 100,000.

All other ethnic groups saw increases during that time, but at a far lower rate. At the end of June, the rate of hospitalizations among Black residents was 9.3 per 100,000 residents, compared to 2.7 for white residents and 5.4 for Latino residents.

Combining the large number of unvaccinated residents with the lifting of COVID health restrictions on gatherings and indoor capacity, Ferrer said there are far more opportunities for those residents to become infected. She said people who are unvaccinated should be adhering to infection-control measures, such as mask-wearing indoors and proper hygiene. But she said getting vaccinated is clearly the most effective way to prevent infection. 

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Among county residents age 16 and older, 69% have received at least one dose of vaccine, and 60% are fully vaccinated. The rate among Black residents, however, is only 45% with at least one dose, compared to 54% for Latino residents, 65% for white residents and 76% for Asians. Vaccination rates
continue to be especially low among younger Black residents, with only 28% of those aged 18-29 vaccinated.

In hopes of encouraging more people to get vaccinated, the county is continuing to offer incentives. From Friday to next Thursday, anyone who gets vaccinated at sites operated by the county, the city of Los Angeles or St. John's Well Child and Family Center will be entered for a chance to win one of
seven concert ticket prizes, including box seats at the Hollywood Bowl and tickets to Staples Center concerts including Celine Dion, Grupo Firma, Luke Bryan, Kane Brown and Dan+Shay.