Some might have been surprised to see California on Dr. Anthony Fauci's map of high-risk areas where the new federal indoor mask mandates must be obeyed. The Golden State was deemed more high risk than Texas. Indeed, scientists are finding that despite its high vaccination rates, California is seeing more COVID cases than it should.
California and its big coastal cities have embraced vaccines in their effort to beat back the COVID pandemic. But a Bay Area News Group analysis shows that not only are cases rising fast, they are rising in areas where there are more fully vaccinated people. Some of these counties have both among the highest vaccination rates, and the highest new-case rates.
Notice that five of these counties have both a higher percentage of their eligible residents fully vaccinated and a higher average daily case rate than the statewide average. They include: LA, San Diego, Alameda, Contra Costa and San Francisco. The five counties with falling case rates are Modoc, Glenn, Lassen, Del Norte, San Benito, and they, coincidentally, have below-average vaccination rates.
Source: Mercury News
As to what might be causing this, experts point to two things: the extraordinary ease with which the virus' now-dominant delta strain spreads, and the fact that no vaccine offers complete protection.
"I am not so surprised that transmission rates are not neatly tracking immunization rates," said Dr. Stephen Luby, a medical professor specializing in infectious diseases at Stanford University.
"There are a number of issues that contribute to transmission," Luby said. "In high density urban settings, for example, even with a higher level of vaccine coverage, there can still be a lot of exposure to unvaccinated folks and potentially to folks who are vaccinated but are asymptomatically shedding the delta variant."
Reports of the vaccines' effectiveness against the delta variant have been mixed. In Israel, the Ministry of Health suspects the protection afforded by the Pfizer jab might be as low as 64%.
LA was the first major city to reimpose an indoor mask mandate, while California and NYC have both ordered all public workers, including police and teachers, to get vaccinated, or face constant testing and masking.
Of course, not everybody believes the CDC's new measures are the best strategy. Dr. Scott Gottlieb said earlier that the delta "surge" will pass in the US within two or three weeks.