EL DORADO COUNTY, Calif. (KTXL) – El Dorado County recorded its first case of the delta coronavirus variant this week.
Just when Californians were beginning to put COVID-19 restrictions in their rear-view mirror, a new variant has those in Los Angeles County reversing course.
With a reported case of the variant locally, health officials in Los Angeles County are asking everyone, regardless of vaccination status, to mask up in public places.
El Dorado County, meanwhile, has not issued new mask guidance.
“Being cautious is probably wise,” advised El Dorado County Public Health Officer Dr. Nancy Williams.
Public health experts say the delta variant, first identified in India, is considered to be more contagious and more likely to cause severe illness.
“This variant is concerning because it is known to be more communicable and can be a little bit more severe, yes, and maybe actually get people more sick, more quickly,” Williams explained.
Williams says the person who contracted the variant in early June was likely not vaccinated, presenting yet another reason for people to roll up their sleeves.
“Every day there’s more information out there about the safety of the vaccines,” Williams said. “Obviously, the risk of illness is important, I don’t want us to wait until we see another surge before people start taking it seriously but that’s certainly a possibility that could happen.”
As of Wednesday, Williams says about half of the county’s eligible residents are fully inoculated.
When asked whether the county will follow Los Angeles’ lead in requiring masks in public, she says it’s about encouragement just as much as protection.
“This is a politically hot topic sometimes so I think that might be a difficult message, I think the reason for doing that is because the culture of wearing masks makes it a lot easier for everyone to do it,” Williams explained. “I think that if people feel like they’re being identified as not vaccinated if they’re wearing masks, then they may be less interested in wearing masks. So the more people we have wearing masks, the more people we need to have wearing masks.”
The delta variant now accounts for 15% of cases in California and is on track to becoming the dominant strain.
Williams advises those who are not vaccinated to think twice about traveling this holiday weekend.
“I think traveling definitely requires some thought before and after,” Williams said. “And for people who aren’t vaccinated, traveling really isn’t advised at this point.”
No local counties have announced plans to issue new recommendations on masks.
While there is limited data about vaccine effectiveness against the delta variant, Moderna said this week that a new study shows its vaccine is protective against the new virus strain.