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In troubling spike, L.A. County sees hundreds of recent coronavirus instances in three days

This transmission electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2, also known as 2019-nCoV, the coronavirus virus that causes COVID-19. (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Rocky Mountain Laboratories)

Los Angeles County has recorded thousands of new coronavirus cases in three days, part of a troubling rise in cases as viral transmission increases among unvaccinated people.

It was the first time since early March that the county has reported three consecutive days when more than 1,000 new coronavirus cases were reported on each of those days.

The numbers underscore growing concerns about how the highly contagious Delta variant is spreading COVID-19 among unvaccinated people. Officials have said those who have received vaccinations have an excellent chance of being protected.

Of 4.67 million L.A. County residents who have been fully vaccinated, only 0.06% have subsequently tested positive for the coronavirus, 0.004% have been hospitalized for COVID-19, and 0.0004% have died.

Roughly 59% of L.A. County residents are at least partly vaccinated to this point, but that leaves millions more who are at risk, officials said.

“We’re a large county, and so the numbers are staggering in terms of people who are at risk of being able to get infected,” Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said last week.

On Friday, 1,044 cases were reported, and an additional 1,111 cases were reported on Saturday, according to a Los Angeles Times tally of cases. On Sunday, the L.A. County Department of Public Health announced 1,113 new cases.

For the seven-day period that ended Saturday, L.A. County has reported an average of 756 new cases a day. That’s three times higher than the average number of cases for the seven-day period that ended June 26, when 244 cases were reported a day.

Hospitalizations are rising, too. COVID-19 hospitalizations Friday rose to 373 — the highest number since early May — and up about 76% from the record low set June `12, when hospitalizations fell to 212. The daily number of reported COVID-19 deaths remains low, averaging seven deaths a day.

Officials said Saturday that it’s unvaccinated younger residents who are transmitting the virus the most. Of the new cases reported Saturday, 70% of them were the youngest adults, from age 18 to 49.

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“Because of increased intermingling and summer social activities and the circulation of more variants … there is increased risk of COVID-19 infection for people who aren’t fully vaccinated,” the L.A. County Department of Public Health said in a statement.

Average daily coronavirus cases across California are also increasing. By Saturday night, California was reporting an average of more than 2,000 new cases a day over the last week, a figure that hasn’t been seen since April. Statewide hospitalizations climbed to 1,381 as of Friday, a number that hasn’t been seen since mid-May.

“Our current hospitalization trends & increasing Delta variant … infecting our remaining unvaccinated are concerning,” California state epidemiologist Dr. Erica Pan said in a tweet.

L.A. County continues to recommend that even fully vaccinated people wear masks in indoor public spaces amid some concerns that a very small number of vaccinated people may be able to transmit the virus to other people.

State and federal officials have said there is no need for fully vaccinated people to wear masks in indoor settings, given the high level of effectiveness of the vaccines.

Delta is now California’s most identified variant, accounting for 42.9% of cases analyzed in June, according to new figures the state Department of Public Health released Thursday.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also estimates that the Delta variant, which is believed to be twice as transmissible as the conventional coronavirus strains, now comprises 51.7% of cases nationally.

Despite the dangers posed by Delta, officials stress that the available vaccines hold up well — providing high levels of protection both against infection and the more serious health effects of COVID-19.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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