Without masks, even the fully-vaccinated can play a part in spreading the COVID Delta variant

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- As cases of the Delta variant continue to multiply, L.A. County health officials warn this newly-minted "Pandemic of the Unvaccinated" will start to take a dangerous turn.

At a Los Angeles City Council meeting, a resident during public comment noticed masks were largely absent.

"I just want to ask all of you, where are your masks?" the caller asked.

The question came up after the county health department "strongly" recommended people mask indoors in public places regardless of vaccination status. The reason is the increased spread of the far more contagious Delta variant.

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Health officials in Los Angeles County now strongly recommend that people wear masks indoors in public places - regardless of their vaccination status - to prevent the spread of the highly transmissible delta variant of the coronavirus.

"It's 50 to 60% more contagious than the Alpha variant which is 50 to 60% more contagious than the original," said Dr. Kenneth Kim with Ark Clinical Research in Long Beach.

Besides cases in L.A. County, Long Beach health officials have also identified the strain in their sampling.

Indoor masking is a precautionary measure because people who've been vaccinated are protected against the Delta variant.

"The fact that you got vaccinated should take away the fear that you're going to die from this or you're going to be hospitalized," Kim said.

But Kim, who is a principal investigator for the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, points out masking even among the fully-vaccinated can help prevent spread. Breakthrough infections, although rare and mild in those vaccinated, are more likely to occur which can infect those who are unvaccinated.

Delta variant of COVID-19 a rising concern in Los Angeles County
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While overall COVID-19 rates remain relatively low in Southern California amid continuing vaccination efforts, officials are increasingly worried about a growing threat from the delta variant.

"When you go to a large gathering where there are lots of people, the chances of someone carrying the virus asymptomatically and transmitting it is higher," he said.

New Moderna preliminary lab data shows its vaccine will likely hold up against the Delta variant. Johnson and Johnson's efficacy, although not as high as mRNA vaccines, still protects. Yet, some doctors have suggested J&J recipients boost their immunity with an mRNA dose. Experts advise that now is not the time to experiment.

"I don't think we should be panicking nor should we be running off and getting a second vaccine. I think we should just watch and see," Kim said.

He said right now the unvaccinated should be the most worried about the Delta variant.

"It is slightly more lethal than the original virus. So you're just putting yourself at risk and there's no reason to do that." he said.

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