TARZANA (CBSLA) - The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that the Delta Variant of the coronavirus is as contagious as Chickenpox and more transmissible than the common cold.
"Let me assure you, from the frontlines, that Delta is very serious," said Dr. Michael Hirt, director for the Center of Integrative Medicine in Tarzana.
He told CBSLA Friday he has been treating more COVID patients than he can count.
"The CDC realizing the vaccine doesn't prevent infection, vaccinated patients can infect another vaccinated patient, this is more dangerous than we thought it was, well, we've seen that and known that for weeks ahead of time. But we can't share, so we just watch," he said.
Dr. Hirt argues waiting for a directive from the top down instead of looking to frontline doctors to share an informed message to the public is a recipe for disaster.
"The problem here is that anytime you mix medicine and politics, you create a poison and that poison is what we're experiencing right now. It can get people killed and make them very, very sick," he added.
Los Angeles County this month issued a health order requiring everyone to wear masks in indoor public settings regardless of vaccination status. No other Southern California counties have taken that step, opting instead to merely recommend mask-wearing indoors for vaccinated people. State rules require unvaccinated people to wear masks indoors, but enforcement is largely on the honor system.
In a statement Thursday, the OC Health Agency "strongly" encouraged residents to "avoid large crowds, where it is easy for the virus to pass from person to person."
The agency noted that between July 21 and Tuesday, the seven-day average rate of people becoming infected with the virus rose from 6.5 per 100,000 residents to 8.6 per 100,000, and the average number of daily COVID cases jumped from 210 to 279. The rate of people testing positive rose from 3.6% to 5.2%.
Increases have largely been attributed to the highly infectious Delta strain of the coronavirus.
The positivity rate is more alarming as it reflects more people being infected rather than an increase in testing, Andrew Noymer, an epidemiologist and UC Irvine professor of population health and disease prevention, told City News Service this week.
"Delta is exploding everywhere," Noymer said. "It's become apparent Delta has become a big game changer."
Noymer said he expects fewer deaths during this surge because of high vaccination rates among seniors.
The Delta variant is a great deal more contagious and produces higher viral loads, but it is not clear how much more deadly it could be, Noymer said.
"It's not clear to me that Delta is more deadly, but it is clear to me it's more spreadable," Noymer said.
The rising level of breakthrough infections -- infections occurring in fully vaccinated people -- is concerning, Noymer said.
The vaccines are effective at keeping most recipients from hospitalization or serious illness, but Noymer pointed out he is acquainted with two fully vaccinated people who were hospitalized for a COVID-19 infection.
"It's not a crisis, but the direction of travel is backwards and that is the issue," Noymer said.
The most dominant variants in Orange County in recent weeks have been the Delta, Alpha and Gamma variants, according to the OCHCA. Delta and Alpha are considered much more highly contagious, with Delta now considered the most dominant strain statewide.
Experts say the current COVID vaccines all provide a high degree of protection against infections and -- while they will not prevent all infections -- they usually prevent serious illness and death.
As of last Thursday, the county reported that 1,876,853 residents were fully vaccinated. The number of residents who have received Pfizer or Moderna and are fully vaccinated was 1,754,729, and the number of those who received the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine and are fully vaccinated was 122,124.
The county reported there were 214,245 who have received at least one dose of the two-dose Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.
(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)
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