The Delta variant of the 2019 coronavirus jumped to 35.6 percent of California’s genetic sequencing results for the full month of June. The previous number, released on June 28, was 14.5 percent, and in May, Delta represented only 5.6 percent of sequenced virus in the state. The variant first identified in India is cruising easily to new heights in California and is now described as hypertransmissible. Santa Barbara County announced two new cases last week, bringing its total to four.
The county patients had been infected as a result of community transmission, not travel, and none had to be hospitalized, said Dr. Henning Ansorg, the county’s health officer. He couldn’t disclose where the patients live or if they were vaccinated due to medical privacy rules. Given the Delta variant’s ability to transit to five or six people, as compared to the “wild” coronavirus’s two to three people, community transmission is grim news for the unvaccinated. The vaccines available continue to be effective against the variants now circulating.
The Delta variant has also come to dominate the United States, with the Centers for Disease Control projecting it to be 51 percent nationwide. Delta has outpaced the U.K., or Alpha, variant in the country and in California, where Alpha dropped to 34.3 percent in June compared to 58 percent in May. A relatively small number of positive COVID tests are genetically sequenced, 11 percent of them in May, according to California’s public health department. Delta comprised 634 of the 63,447 samples sequenced so far.
Since California reopened on June 15, daily case counts, hospitalizations, and intensive care unit patients in the county have been “very low and stable so far,” Dr. Ansorg said. COVID continues to take a toll on the vulnerable, however. Seven people died of COVID in June, all over the age of 50, six of whom had underlying conditions. Geographically, four were from Santa Maria, and one each lived in Santa Barbara, Goleta, and unincorporated South County.
The total number of vaccines given in Santa Barbara County — 467,348 — now just about matches the number of residents — 453,498. Because the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines require two shots and are only approved for those 12 and older, that translates to roughly 224,000 fully vaccinated eligible county residents, or 59.1 percent. Comparatively, 59.6 percent of Californians are fully vaccinated and 51 percent of Los Angelenos.
A new issue was reported in the giant Los Angeles daily on Tuesday, a possible long-haul COVID symptom of erectile dysfunction. Though Ansorg said such symptoms are not monitored in Santa Barbara, inflammation of blood vessel linings was noted anecdotally among urologists who treat male sexual health, the Times reported, not unlike the heart muscle inflammation that can follow COVID-19. A loss of taste and smell were other symptoms among people who suffered long-term issues after contracting the disease, as were difficulty breathing, chest pain, and heart palpitations.