As California officially reopens June 15 amid a sharp decline in Covid-19 numbers, the worry is about the emerging variants of the coronavirus in general and the delta variant in particular.
A total of 22 cases of the delta variant, which was first identified in India, have been found in the Bay Area, Lisa Kim of the Stanford School of Medicine told indica News.
Specialists believe the delta variant is driving the coronavirus surge in many countries across the globe.
The California Department of Public Health said they are monitoring the delta and kappa variants (B.1.617 variants), which are classified as “Known Variants of Interest in California,” including sub-lineages B.1.617.1, B.1.617.2, and B.1.617.3.
The data tracker of the department link shows that 2,268 sequences in the B.1.617.2 lineage have been detected in the US as of June 14, 2021, and 291 of those cases have been detected in California.
“I think we are safe to open,” Dr Monica Gandhi, director of the University of California San Francisco Center for AIDS Research, and professor of medicine at the UCSF, told indica News.
“It is true that this variant is likely more transmissible but we have high rates of vaccination and we are not seeing increased hospitalizations and deaths in our state from this delta variant,” said Dr Gandhi.
“We do a lot of testing of asymptomatic people after vaccination, which is revealing more of this variant in nasal swabs, but, without increased hospitalizations, it is safe to open.”
Dr Gandhi said: “I do not expect a third wave from the delta variant. There may be pockets where there are high rates of unvaccinated individuals in the state where there are more cases and hospitalizations but with our generally high level of immunity, I do not expect a third wave in the general population.”
Dr Jasbir S Kang, medical director, Yuba Sutter Hospitalist Group, also said that the numbers were good enough for the state to reopen.
Asked about variants, he said: “The ones coming from India, who are not vaccinated, are coming with Covid-19. We are not sure which variants… but we have seen patients coming from India who have tested Covid positive just a day after landing.
“I don’t know how they got tested there [in India],” he said. “My only advice is to quarantine yourself [on arrival].”
Asked if he expected a third wave, Dr Kang said: “The only concern is people who are not taking the vaccine… in the fall we might get another surge.”
He added: “The other concern is whether we are going to get the booster dose or not, that needs to clear soon.”
Although the advice has been taken back, Dr Kang said it was still a good idea to wear masks.
“I think it would be good practice to wear because in California only 58 percent got one shot and 46 percent got both shots. We definitely need more people to get vaccinated.”