Mask Sign photo

Masks are once again recommended in indoor places in Mono County due to rising Covid cases, mostly due to the new, Delta variant. It is a recommendation, not a mandate. 

Mono County’s Covid-19 positive test rate jumped to eight per 100,000 population this week, a statistically significant increase from 6.3 positive tests per 100,000 last week and, 30 days earlier, zero positive tests per 100,000.

The rise is almost or entirely due to the Delta variant of the virus continuing its inexorable move through the state’s unvaccinated population (the vast majority of the state’s residents (more than 98 percent) who test positive and then become symptomatic and/or die from the disease are unvaccinated).

The statewide surge triggered the state this week to issue an order that all state employees must be vaccinated, or they must undergo weekly testing and wear face masks. The federal government also mandated all federal employees and federal contractors must be vaccinated, or go through a weekly testing regime and wear a mask. 

There are no mandates for local or county residents (who do not work for the state or federal government) at this time but as previously reported, Mono County Public Health department did issue a voluntary recommendation last week that all Mono residents and visitors, vaccinated and not vaccinated, once again wear masks indoors in public settings.

“Unfortunately, we are seeing a surge and we are just trying to prepare for it,” said Mono County Public Health Director Bryan Wheeler last week. 

He noted that Los Angeles County has been especially hard hit; another reason the county took the step to ask for voluntary mask wearing indoors in public spaces, as so many of Mono County’s residents come from that area of the state.

He said at least ten visitors had tested positive over the past few weeks.

The Delta variant is more than twice as transmissible as the original virus that arrived on the world stage in late 2019, due to a mutation on the corona or ‘spikes’ of the Delta variant which allow the Delta variation of the virus to more easily attach to a potential host than the original “wild” or "Alpha" Covid virus that emerged in 2019.

In other words, it takes less effort for the new Delta variant to infect a person than the original virus and as such, it has outcompeted the original virus across the state and the world.

The news might seem grim – and it is, coming more than a year after the virus turned the county and the world upside down. But there is also reason not to panic.

The bottom line is Mono County has a relatively high vaccination rate compared to most other counties, states and the rest of the world; the county has a fully vaccinated rate (those who have had two doses of either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine) of about 68 percent and, a partially vaccinated rate of about 72 percent as of this week, according to Jennifer Burrows, the county health departments deputy director of Covid operations.

The two main vaccines administered in Mono County, the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, are effective against preventing most infections and about 98 percent effective at preventing deaths and serious illness against the Delta variant, according to health officials. 

Another good sign for Mono County is there is a rising interest in getting the vaccines, she said. 

“There is a slight increase in demand,” she said. “It does appear to be driven by the worry about the Delta variant.”

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