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Infections Rising In Fully Vaccinated Residents But Hospitalizations, Deaths Remain Low

Nurse practitioner Debbi Hinderliter, left, collects a sample from a woman at a coronavirus testing site near the nation's busiest pedestrian border crossing in San Diego. Aug. 13, 2020
Gregory Bull / Associated Press
Nurse practitioner Debbi Hinderliter, left, collects a sample from a woman at a coronavirus testing site near the nation's busiest pedestrian border crossing in San Diego. Aug. 13, 2020

In San Diego, more than 90% of COVID-19 cases are among the unvaccinated, but numbers of those fully vaccinated and catching the virus are rising.

City Heights resident Suzanne Hoyem and her husband were both vaccinated in April and slowly started returning to a pre-pandemic lifestyle, before recently contracting the virus.

Infections Rising In Fully Vaccinated Residents; Hospitalizations, Deaths Remain Low
Listen to this story by Matt Hoffman.

"To be honest, the last month or so I haven’t been wearing a mask in grocery stores and we’ve been inside crowded restaurants," Hoyem said, adding she is not exactly sure how she caught COVID-19.

Her symptoms have been relatively mild, with headaches and a fever for a day. Her husband did lose his sense of taste and smell, but neither had to be hospitalized.

"I really feel grateful that I’m vaccinated," Hoyem said. "I’m so grateful that my symptoms are minimal like I really do feel like the only reason why I’m walking and talking and standing here is because I’m vaccinated."

RELATED: San Diego Seeing Steady Rise In COVID Hospitalizations

Medical experts say cases like Hoyem’s show that despite infection, the vaccines are working: protecting against death and hospitalizations.

"Even though there are more breakthrough infections they’re definitely very mild and short-lived in vaccinated persons," said Dr. Francesca Torriani, an infectious disease specialist at UC San Diego Health.

Torriani says the more contagious delta variant could be the reason for the uptick in cases among those fully vaccinated.

"We do see more breakthroughs than we ever saw before," she said. "And this may simply be because the delta variant is associated with so much more virus."

Since March of this year, around 9% of coronavirus infections here have been among those fully vaccinated, and they account for just 2% of hospitalizations and 7% of deaths.

"So this pandemic is still an unvaccinated pandemic," Torriani added.

Torriani said the delta variant is changing the fight against the pandemic, especially since infections in those fully vaccinated can be extremely mild, but the virus can still be spread. Hoyem said she is now back to masking and at least for now is not sold on "returning to normal."

"I was flying real close to the sun there enjoying what I could, now I’m going to dial it back," she said. "Maybe we’re not out of the woods just yet."

VIDEO: Infections Rising In Fully Vaccinated Residents, But Hospitalizations And Deaths Remain Low

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