Infection from Delta variant reported in Santa Cruz County, as variant spreads nationwide

Bay Area doctors warn the highly transmissible Delta variant of COVID-19 is in the Bay Area, and say people who are partially vaccinated or unvaccinated are at the highest risk of getting infected and suffering severe illness.

Approximately 70.5 percent of Bay Area residents are fully vaccinated, leaving about one in three people at higher risk.

"It's really two worlds now, you have the vaccinated world and you have the unvaccinated world. And the risk for the unvaccinated just rises every day," Dr. David Ghilarducci, Santa Cruz County's deputy health officer said. 

On Tuesday state health officials said they are monitoring the Delta variant, but are not imposing any changes to indoor mask-wearing guidelines. Bay Area counties are following the state's lead.

In Los Angeles County, public health recommends everyone wear masks in public indoor spaces, regardless of vaccination status.

Dr. John Swartzberg, clinical professor emeritus at UC Berkeley's school of public health, who specializes in infectious diseases, said Los Angeles's recommendation is wise for Bay Area counties to consider.

"I would think that it would be reasonable advice for public health officials here to say, you know, if you're indoors and you don't know whether people are vaccinated or not, and they're not wearing masks, if you wear a mask it will add a little more to your protection," Swartzberg said.

Studies show Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are highly effective against the Delta variant, but only after getting both doses. A study in the UK found just having a single dose of Pfizer left people 67 percent more likely to end up in the hospital.

SEE ALSO: Bay Area health agencies track the more contagious Delta variant

It remains to be seen how protective the Johnson and Johnson vaccine is against the Delta variant. Swartzberg recommends people who were vaccinated with Johnson and Johnson exercise the same caution they had prior to getting the vaccine.

In Santa Cruz County, where approximately 58 percent of residents age 12 and older are fully vaccinated, a man in his 50's came down with mild symptoms brought on by the Delta variant. The COVID-19 sample was collected on June 10.

Santa Cruz County Public Health officials have not determined if the man had received either dose of the coronavirus vaccine.

Unofficially, the Ghilarducci is making a personal plea for continued indoor mask-wearing.

"Our intention right now is to follow state guidelines on masking," Ghilarducci said regarding Santa Cruz County's intentions. 

He added that he personally recommends that everyone, even the fully vaccinated, mask up.

"If you're…over the age of 50 like I am, I'm going to start wearing a mask in crowded places, and I am fully vaccinated," Ghilarducci said. "I say why not? Let's just do it. It's easy, it's cheap, and it provides an extra level of protection."