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Bay Area health officials urge all residents to wear masks indoors

San Francisco Bay Area health officials announced indoor mask wearing recommendations for all residents, including the vaccinated, as the Indian Delta variant threatens to halt progress against the coronavirus. 

The joint announcement Friday by health officials from eight counties in California’s Bay Area came a day before health officials in Los Angeles put in place an indoor mask mandate to stem the spread of the highly contagious variant, and one month after progress against the disease prompted California Gov. Gavin Newsom to reopen the state’s economy. 

The spread of the highly contagious strain, which originated in India, has already pushed new infections up to 26,306 nationwide, an increase of 69.3 percent on a seven-day moving average compared to one week earlier.

Nearly every state witnessed a rise in infections in the last week and CDC data shows the Delta variant is responsible for about 60 percent of these cases.

In LA, the reinstatement of indoor mask mandates came after the county saw a 700% increase in its positivity rate over the past month, according to county health officials with the unvaccinated accounting for all hospitalizations. 

Still, the return to mask wearing has been met with some resistance.

San Francisco Bay Area health officials announced indoor mask wearing recommendations for all residents, including the vaccinated, as the Indian Delta variant threatens to halt progress against the coronavirus. Pictured  are partygoers in LA early Sunday morning, just as its mask mandate was reinstated

LA's indoor mask mandate went into effect Saturday night as the county has seen a 700% spike in infections

LA’s indoor mask mandate went into effect Saturday night as the county has seen a 700% spike in infections 

The Bay Area mask recommendation came as infections have spiked nationwide, driven primarily by the spread of the highly contagious Indian delta variant

The Bay Area mask recommendation came as infections have spiked nationwide, driven primarily by the spread of the highly contagious Indian delta variant 

On Friday, LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva announced that his department would not be enforcing the new mandate, saying that his department lacked resources and that forcing the vaccinated and those who had already contracted Covid-19 to wear masks was not backed by science and contradicted CDC guidelines. 

‘The underfunded/defunded Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department will not expend our limited resources and instead ask for voluntary compliance,’ Villanueva said in a statement. 

In an interview on Sunday LA County Supervisor Hilda Solis said that with the delta variant and 48% of the county population still unvaccinated, the reinstated mandate was, ‘not punishment, it’s prevention.  

‘We still have 4 million people out of 10 million that haven’t been vaccinated. And many of them are young people,’ Solis, a former Obama administration labor secretary told ABC’s This Week.

‘And we’re seeing that this transmission is so highly contagious that it will cost more in the long run if we have to see our hospitals being impacted, our ICU units, as well as our health care workers.’

The CDC no longer calls for vaccinated people to wear masks, a departure from the new local guidelines, but former US Surgeon General Jerome Adams, who served nearly four years under the Trump Administration, says dropping the mask recommendations may have been premature and called on the agency to reverse its stance.  

Former  US Surgeon General Jerome Adams called on the CDC to reinstate its mask recommendations for the vaccinated in areas with rising infection rates, saying that differing local and federal guidelines were sowing confusion

Former  US Surgeon General Jerome Adams called on the CDC to reinstate its mask recommendations for the vaccinated in areas with rising infection rates, saying that differing local and federal guidelines were sowing confusion

‘Last year Tony Fauci and I famously, prematurely, & wrongly advised against masks. I felt it was the best call at the time, but now regret it,’ Adams tweeted on Saturday. ‘I’m worried the CDC also made a similarly premature, misinterpreted, yet still harmful call on masking in the face of [the] delta variant.’ 

At the outset of the pandemic, he said, the CDC sought to preserve the nation’s supplies of masks for medical workers, but the guidelines were misinterpreted and lagged behind the evolving science and conditions on the ground. 

Similarly, with cases rising the the spread of the contagious delta variant, Adams said it’s important for the CDC to call for masks in areas with high positivity rates or risk sowing confusion with differing local and federal guidelines. 

‘The sooner CDC says we were wrong, & hits the reset button, the better,’ he wrote. ‘Trust me- I know more than anyone.’ 

Despite some of the highest vaccination rates in the country, the area around San Francisco is still seeing a spike in infections

Despite some of the highest vaccination rates in the country, the area around San Francisco is still seeing a spike in infections 

Health officials in the Bay Area say the new infections have been spreading primarily among its unvaccinated population

Health officials in the Bay Area say the new infections have been spreading primarily among its unvaccinated population

In California, cases of the delta variant made up 48.8% of all new cases recorded in the state in June, compared to just 6% in May. 

The Bay Area health officials said their recommendation was made ‘out of an abundance of caution’ as an ‘added layer of protection for unvaccinated residents.’  

Unvaccinated people are of particular risk to contracting the delta variant, health experts say, as CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky warned that the current outbreak is becoming ‘a pandemic of the unvaccinated’ as most cases, hospitalizations and deaths are among people yet to take the shot while the nation’s vaccination rollout has stalled.  

‘The Delta variant is spreading quickly, and everyone should take action to protect themselves and others against this potentially deadly virus,’ Alameda County Health Officer Dr. Nicholas Moss said. 

Both deaths and infections have spiked across the country as fears mount that the new variant could halt progress against the virus

Both deaths and infections have spiked across the country as fears mount that the new variant could halt progress against the virus 

The recommendations come just one month after California dropped its coronavirus restrictions.  Patrons in San Francisco can be seen indoor maskless on June 15

The recommendations come just one month after California dropped its coronavirus restrictions.  Patrons in San Francisco can be seen indoor maskless on June 15

‘The highly infectious Delta variant is now the predominant strain in Contra Costa County,’ Contra Costa County Health Officer Dr. Chris Farnitano said. ‘While vaccines remain our best tool against COVID-19, masking in indoor and crowded outdoor settings will help us curb the spread of this latest wave of infection.’ 

Perhaps most concerning is the spread of cases despite high vaccination rates in the Bay Area.

In San Francisco, for instance, 83% of its residents over 12 have received at least one dose of the vaccine with 76% of its population over 12 fully vaccinated.

Still, cases are on the rise, with a seven-day rolling average of 58 new cases recorded a day last week compared to a low of 10 in mid June. 

The new cases come as the country's vaccination effort has stalled

The new cases come as the country’s vaccination effort has stalled

‘Unfortunately, even though we have very high rates of vaccination and the excellent protection that affords, we are still seeing our case rates rise,’ Santa Clara County Assistant Health Officer Dr. Sarah Rudman told CBS SF Bay Area. 

She said the variant had become a particular problem among the county’s unvaccinated population, and that recommending everyone wear masks was to ensure the unvaccinated continue wearing masks.

Similar concerns have risen elsewhere in the country, with the delta variant projected to make up every new case in New York City by next month, and as America looks to the United Kingdom, which is several weeks ahead in its battle against the Delta variant and is grappling with daily infections doubling within the space of a week.

Based on the rate with which the strain became dominant in the UK, then made up 100 percent of cases and set off a dramatic spike in cases and deaths, the US may well be just weeks away from reaching a similar crisis point.

New York City, which last year was the virus epicenter of the world, could see cases accelerate six-fold and deaths multiply by seven between now and the end of August if the spread of the variant mirrors that on the other side of the pond.

Delta spread quickly throughout the UK and had become the dominant strain by May 21, when 60.6 percent of all new cases in the two weeks preceding it were identified as the B1.617.2 variant.

Just six weeks later, on the week ending July 2, 100 percent of all UK cases were the Delta variant.

New York City has a lag on the UK when it comes to the prevalence of the strain.

It became dominant by the week ending July 3, accounting for 69 percent of all new cases just as people jetted in and out of the city for the July 4 weekend. 

This means if New York City follows the same pattern as the UK, the Big Apple is on track for the Delta strain to make up 100 percent of all new cases by August 14.

And this threatens to set off a new wave of the virus, just one month after New York state lifted all remaining coronavirus restrictions in June.

The spread of the Delta variant sent cases and deaths surging once again in the UK and plunged the country into yet another lockdown.

As the number of U.K. cases shoots higher with the Indian Delta COVID variant taking hold, New York City cases also are beginning to move higher - and they threaten to spike just as the U.K.'s numbers have as the Delta variant becomes an increasing share of the city's infections

As the number of U.K. cases shoots higher with the Indian Delta COVID variant taking hold, New York City cases also are beginning to move higher – and they threaten to spike just as the U.K.’s numbers have as the Delta variant becomes an increasing share of the city’s infections

Still, with vaccine rates high in both the U.K., deaths have not spiked higher even as COVID cases have; New Yorkers and Americans can hold onto some hope that deaths won't spike, either, though in areas of the country with low vaccination rates, there is some worry

Still, with vaccine rates high in both the U.K., deaths have not spiked higher even as COVID cases have; New Yorkers and Americans can hold onto some hope that deaths won’t spike, either, though in areas of the country with low vaccination rates, there is some worry

In the six weeks between May 21 – when it became the dominant strain – and July 2 – when it accounted for 100 percent of new cases, COVID-19 infections surged a staggering 1,124 percent from 2,290 to 25,750.

Deaths also almost quadrupled from 7 to 27 within the same timeframe, with the nation’s vaccine rollout credited with limiting the fatality rate.

Cases and deaths have continued to climb in the two weeks since, with daily infections more than doubling to 54,674 and another 41 people dying Saturday.

Hospitalizations also spiked 30.4 per cent to 740 on July 13 — the latest date data is available for and the highest number of daily admissions seen since March 2, when 834 patients were recorded.

In the last week alone, cases jumped by more than two thirds with the UK on track to pass 100,000 new daily infections in two weeks’ time and experts warning a new lockdown could be needed by September.

Based on the trends seen in the UK, New York City could be on track for a similar surge in cases and deaths over the coming weeks and months. 

If infections surge at the same rate between Delta becoming dominant and 100 percent saturating the city, the number of cases in the Big Apple could climb from 192 recorded on July 3 to around 2,158 on August 14 when the strain makes up all new cases.

By the end of August, cases could have reached around 4,338 – more than six times the 640 recorded on July 14, when the last data is available for.

Deaths are also likely to spike from 5 on July 3 to around 19 on August 14 and 34 by the end of August, as the rate of fatalities accelerates.

New York may, however, have a head start in its fight against the more contagious strain as it reached US soil later than the UK – meaning more Americans may be fully vaccinated before it reaches saturation point.

The UK has been racing to beat the spread of the strain by vaccinating as many people aged 18 and over as possible while the US has approved the vaccine for anyone aged 12 and over.

Currently, the UK and New York City are roughly on a par when it comes to the vaccine rollout, with 53 percent and 49 percent of the populations fully vaccinated, respectively.

Nearly every state and the District of Columbia have seen infections rise in the last week

Nearly every state and the District of Columbia have seen infections rise in the last week 

The next six weeks will then be crucial to ramping up the vaccination rates in the Big Apple to protect New Yorkers from the dominant strain as it takes hold.

But, the vaccine rollout in the US has stalled nationwide and the states with the lowest rates of inoculation are among those seeing the biggest resurgence of the virus.

The White House said Friday that Florida accounted for one in five new cases of COVID-19 this week.

There is also some uncertainty around how effective the vaccines are against the more contagious Delta variant.

A new report from Israel on Friday found the Pfizer two-dose vaccine is ‘weaker’ against the strain than hoped, providing 64 percent protection against infection from the variant as of June 6.

Israel once led the entire world in the vaccine race, vaccinating 61 percent of its population with Pfizer but now the country is dealing with a surge in cases driven by the Delta variant. 



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