LOS ANGELES, CA – As unvaccinated people continue to be infected, hospitalized and killed with the coronavirus at dramatically higher rates, a strange pattern is developing in Los Angeles County that health officials puzzled after an explanation.
For a two-week period ending Nov. 6, several of the Los Angeles County communities with the highest rates of coronavirus cases are also communities with above-average vaccination rates. The authorities are not entirely sure why this is so. Differences in behavior or decreased immunity from vaccines can be factors. People in these communities may also have lower natural immunity due to historically low levels of coronavirus exposure.
Health ministry director Barbara Ferrer said authorities are trying to investigate what factors play a role in individual communities that have above-average vaccination rates but are still among the highest incidence. A common denominator seems to be age. Younger people are fueling this pandemic, Ferrer said.
The average age of those infected is between 26 and 36 years old, which means that young people are driving the numbers. According to the district’s health authorities, more than half of the district’s COVID-19 cases confirmed to date have affected 18 to 49-year-olds.
“I want to say that one thing stands out – the median age in all of these churches was very low,” she said. “This is essentially a pandemic in the highest rate communities, actually fueled by younger people.”
Given the young average age of those infected, “we know that intermingling helps both socially and in the workplace,” she said.
“Whoever you are and wherever you live, whether you live in a community with a high vaccination rate or not, the most important thing you need to do as a person is get vaccinated for people who love you, vaccinated, then be careful with precautionary measures against mixing while transmission rates remain relatively high across the county, “Ferrer said.
Of the 10 communities that had the highest rate of new cases, seven vaccination rates were higher than the national rate, according to Ferrer. However, she insisted that the numbers don’t mean vaccines aren’t effective.
“If you aren’t vaccinated you are at a much higher risk of contracting infection, ending up in hospital and tragically dying. It’s crystal clear and hasn’t really changed in months, ”Ferrer said during a media briefing.
She said the latest numbers show that unvaccinated people are nine times more likely to be infected than those who are vaccinated and 67 times more likely to be hospitalized.
Communities such as Lancaster, Palmdale, Studio City, and Santa Clarita were among the 10 areas of Los Angeles County that had the highest rates of new COVID-19 infections during a two-week period ending Nov. 6, despite most of the Areas on the list have above-average vaccination rates, said the district’s health director on Thursday.
The top two communities on the list with the highest new cases – Lancaster and Palmdale – have below-average rates of fully vaccinated residents at 58% and 66%, respectively. But Studio City, with the third highest rate of new infections, has a vaccination rate of 79%, and Santa Clarita, which ranks fourth on the list, has a vaccination rate of 75%.
The number of fully vaccinated residents in the district is 73%.
Of the other communities on the top 10 list of highest new infection rates, only Willowbrook is below the national vaccination rate at 62%.
“Some of our communities that are currently having these higher case numbers are actually communities that have really decent coverage in terms of vaccination … and they still have a high case problem,” Ferrer said.
She said a variety of factors could play a role in different communities, including the possibility that some areas were living in large numbers who have never been infected with COVID-19 before and remain unvaccinated, leading to higher current infection rates leads.
“That is certainly possible, although we need to look at more data to draw that conclusion,” said Ferrer.
The county reported an additional 26 COVID-19 deaths on Thursday, bringing the total virus-related deaths to 26,949. An additional 1,088 cases have been reported, giving the county a cumulative pandemic totaling 1,515,324.
The moving average daily rate of people who tested positive for the virus in the district was 1.1% on Thursday.
According to the state, 611 COVID-positive patients were treated in county hospitals on Thursday, up from 616 on Wednesday. Of the hospitalized patients, 148 were in intensive care, versus 155.
Ferrer said 82% of the county’s residents 12 and older have received at least one dose of COVID vaccine and 73% are fully vaccinated. Of the county’s total population of 10.3 million people, 71% have received at least one dose and 63% are fully vaccinated.
She said the number of people who received a first dose of the vaccine in the past week has risen sharply, largely due to the expansion of vaccine availability to include children ages 5-11.
Black residents continue to have the lowest vaccination rates at 54%, followed by Latina / O residents with 59%, whites with 72% and Asians with 80%.
Of the roughly 5.99 million residents who were fully vaccinated by Nov. 16, 75,249 subsequently tested positive for the virus, at a rate of 1.26%, Ferrer said. Of the vaccinated population, 2,528 were hospitalized, which is a rate of 0.042%, and 422 died, which is a rate of 0.007%.
Ferrer noted that the county has seen no spike in COVID infections after Halloween, unlike last year when cases rose sharply. She said she hopes residents will continue to exercise caution over the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.
“We need to take a cautionary note of what we are seeing in other parts of the United States and in other parts of the world right now,” Ferrer said. “In the mountain west and across Europe, cases are increasing and hospitals are again being flooded with COVID cases, almost all of them among unvaccinated people. These trends remind us that when people are indoors and mingle unprotected, the virus is much more easily transmitted “from vaccines and other mitigation measures.”
City Intelligence and Patch Agent Paige Austin