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3 things to know about the Delta variant

A pharmacy technician is seen on Feb. 11, 2021.
The Delta variant of the coronavirus is beginning to spread in California.
(Associated Press)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Monday, June 28. I’m Justin Ray.

California has hit a big milestone in the pandemic. Three in five Californians have now received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, federal figures show. But fewer than half of all the state’s residents are fully inoculated, which means millions of more doses will be required for Californians to achieve long-lasting community immunity against the coronavirus.

Sadly, another threat is on the horizon: The Delta variant of the coronavirus is spreading. Though the state is far more protected than others, the strain presents a risk to unvaccinated people. The variant — which was first identified in India — is the third-most-often identified variant in the state, according to data released by the California Department of Public Health. The Delta variant now makes up 14.5% of California coronavirus cases analyzed so far in June, up from 4.7% in May, when it was the fourth-most-identified variant. Delta’s rise comes as California’s currently dominant strain, Alpha, first identified in the United Kingdom, may have peaked.

“The Delta variant is currently the greatest threat in the U.S. to our attempt to eliminate COVID-19,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious disease expert.

Here are three things to know about the Delta variant:

1. It is known to be more infectious. The Delta variant may be twice as transmissible as the conventional strain. While California does have high vaccination rates, the fear is that the Delta variant will take root in pockets of unimmunized communities that haven’t been previously infected with the coronavirus, according to reporters Ron Lin and Luke Money. However, it isn’t clear that it causes more severe illness than other coronavirus strains. “More young people are getting infection, right, and they’re winding up in the hospital. That’s not a good sign,” Dr. Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute in La Jolla, told The Times. But he also said there’s no evidence the Delta variant is more likely to cause death than other variants.

2. If you are vaccinated, you are less likely to experience severe symptoms. Vaccines available in the U.S. are believed to be effective against the Delta variant, as they have been for all known variants. For instance, one recent study found that getting both doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was 88% effective against symptomatic disease caused by the Delta variant and 96% protective against hospitalization. Again, the variant poses the biggest threat for the unimmunized. “If you’re vaccinated, it’s nothing,” UC San Francisco epidemiologist Dr. George Rutherford said of the Delta variant. “If you’re not vaccinated, you’re hosed.” The few fully vaccinated people who have been infected with the Delta variant “experienced relatively mild illness,” L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said.

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3. It isn’t likely we will see shutdowns and stay-at-home orders again due to the variant. Experts say the state’s reopening isn’t threatened by the variant mostly due to the number of people vaccinated. Also, California has a large number of people who have lingering immunity to the coronavirus because they’ve survived past infection. “We will never see the surges that were overwhelming our hospital system,” said Dr. Robert Kim-Farley, medical epidemiologist and infectious diseases expert at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. “There just is not enough people susceptible at this time to create those magnitudes of surge.”

You can check out the latest information on the Delta variant here.

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:

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L.A. STORIES

Hollywood Hills shooting. One person was shot to death and at least four others were injured during a botched robbery in the Hollywood Hills on Friday morning, police said. The chaotic events, which involved three suspects and three people at the home that was targeted in the robbery attempt, unfolded shortly after 2 a.m. in an area known for its celebrity homes and high prices. Detectives are working on a theory that the suspects may be responsible for a string of robberies in the last year, sources told The Times. Los Angeles Times

Passenger jumps from taxiing plane at LAX. I previously told you about strange incidents involving planes and California. Well, add another one to the list. A passenger opened the door of a plane as it was taxiing from the gate area at Los Angeles International Airport and jumped out, officials said, The incident occurred about 7:10 p.m. Friday on a United Express flight, the airport’s police said in a statement. The man was treated for injuries and taken to a hospital. Los Angeles Times

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POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT

Delegates to the International Brotherhood of Teamsters convention voted overwhelmingly for a nationwide push to organize hundreds of thousands of Amazon’s warehouse and delivery workers. The vote is notable considering the company’s anti-union stance. “In my more than two decades of service, I’ve yet to see a threat quite like the one Amazon presents to hardworking people, small businesses, the logistics industry and our nation’s middle class,” said the union’s outgoing general president. Los Angeles Times

Workers amid bins and a conveyor belt
Workers at an Amazon fulfillment center in San Bernardino.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

CRIME AND COURTS

Police say they’ve debunked a TikTok video. The Santa Rosa Police Department said it investigated a widely circulated social media video in which a woman at Santa Rosa Marketplace last week claimed to have heard an officer using a loudspeaker “to tell people to take off your masks, because they were acting like slaves.” “We are certain no Santa Rosa Police Department officer made the alleged comments,” the police said, announcing the results of an investigation. “SRPD does not believe the woman lied ... but her assumption it was an SRPD officer was not correct,” according to the police review of the incident. San Francisco Chronicle

Complaints about San Jose police conduct. A new report from the Office of the Independent Police Auditor shows that the San Jose Police Department received 2,271 complaints about police conduct last year. More than 2,000 of those complaints were about Officer Jared Yuen, who provoked a crowd at a protest in May 2020. The city’s civilian police watchdog reviewed 269 police complaints last year that ranged from claims of excessive force to officers not wearing face coverings. KRON4

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HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT

A detailed new study of tree coverage nationwide by the nonprofit American Forests says that the amount of trees in neighborhoods in large metropolitan areas varies widely, reflecting familiar patterns of racial and economic inequality. The study listed the 20 areas in the U.S. with more than 50,000 people that have the most to gain from planting more trees. That includes San Diego, which the group said should plant an estimated 4 million more trees — essentially doubling its estimated current tree population. San Diego Union-Tribune

CALIFORNIA CULTURE

Columnist Gustavo Arellano discusses the controversy around a tortilla-throwing incident at a San Diego area high school basketball game. He explains that, while tortilla-tossing has a long history in California that’s almost never racist, the latest incident most definitely was: “These new culprits can’t claim any ignorance of what it meant when they threw tortillas. San Diego County high school sports has suffered a rash of racist incidents in recent years.” Los Angeles Times

Blackalicious member dies. Sacramento native Timothy J. Parker, a rapper known as Gift of Gab from the Bay Area group Blackalicious, has died at age 50. Reports say Parker had been battling kidney failure. Blackalicious released four albums and was a major underground rap group. CBS Sacramento

Modesto woman meets siblings for the first time. Erica Hunt said she grew up not knowing her father, so she went to Ancestry.com in April to get answers. Two months later, Hunt would meet siblings for the first time ever — siblings she didn’t know she had. “It’s such a gift that our father gave us to leave us a sibling,” said Michelle Center Ortiz, Hunt’s older sister. KCRA

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CALIFORNIA ALMANAC

Los Angeles: Sunny, 82. San Diego: Overcast, 72. San Francisco: Overcast, 67. San Jose: Partly cloudy, 79. Fresno: Sunny, 80. Sacramento: Sunny, 90.

AND FINALLY

This week’s birthdays for those who made a mark in Southern California:

Mike Tyson will be 55 on June 30. The former boxer has founded a marijuana business called Tyson Ranch. Princess Diana was born July 1, 1961. Marie Claire reports that in the months before she died, she was planning a move to Malibu.

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments to essentialcalifornia@latimes.com.


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