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LATEST UPDATES: Tracking COVID-19 | Vaccines | Racial Injustice

CDC Says Vaccinated Can Still Spread COVID

Cover image for podcast episode

CREDIT: AP PHOTO / DENIS POROY

Above: Masked parents direct their children on the first day of school at Enrique S. Camarena Elementary School in Chula Vista, Calif., July 21, 2021.

An internal CDC report says Delta variant infections are likely more severe and vaccinated people may spread it just as easily as the unvaccinated. Scripps Research Director Eric Topol weighs in on the report. And, this weekend in the arts: “Twenty Women Artists: NOW” wraps up its exhibition, the 2021 Juried Biennial Exhibition hosts its closing reception, and SD Practice continues at two locations across the county.

Speaker 1: 00:01 The war has changed. So how do we stay safe against the Delta? We

Speaker 2: 00:05 Got to get back to masking indoors, especially when you're with the group of people in an unventilated room. I mean, that's a recipe for trouble.

Speaker 1: 00:12 I'm Jade Hindman. This is KPBS mid-day edition. What city see data reveals about just how infectious the Delta variant is and the missed opportunities for patients.

Speaker 2: 00:32 The problem we've had consistently in the pandemic is, well, after when we can take proactive actions, then we finally wake up. We knew exactly every 10 days that Delta was going to double we've done nothing until it's gotten to the point that it's at now,

Speaker 1: 00:48 The arts in our weekend preview that's ahead on midday edition and internal report from the CDC has indicated the Delta variant of COVID-19 is more transmissible than initially thought. Even among vaccinated people. The document goes on to say, health officials must acknowledge the war has changed in the nationwide fight against the virus. Joining me with more is Dr. Eric Topo director of the script's research translational Institute in LA Jolla. Dr. Topo, welcome back to the program.

Speaker 2: 01:27 Thank you. Great to be with you. So

Speaker 1: 01:29 The data is not expected to be officially released until this afternoon, but the Washington post published reporting with early access, what new data does this internal document from the CDC? Tell us about the Delta.

Speaker 2: 01:44 Well, most of it was not new at all, but there's been a big hullabaloo about it, I guess, because it was leaked and it wasn't presented by the CDC, but ultimately we've known for months that the Delta Viren was highly, highly contagious. And so that's why it's been likened to chicken pox and other very contagious illnesses that's been known. There's nothing new about that. The only real new thing here is that among people who are vaccinated because of that high load, it's overriding people. Who've been vaccinated, not a large number, a small number, but they can have this viral load that tie and transmit the virus to others. So that's the new wrinkle here is that if you're vaccinated, you're not a hundred percent protected. We've known you aren't a hundred percent, but this puts a little further den in that protective level

Speaker 1: 02:33 In San Diego county, you know, about 70% of the eligible population are vaccinated. You've said we need about 90% vaccination to stop this Delta variant. Can you explain how you've come to that number? Given what the CDC is now saying about the transmissibility of the virus?

Speaker 2: 02:49 What we want to look at is more the total population, because if you just look at eligible over age 12, San Diego has done reasonably well, certainly well ahead of the, but you have places like Vermont that are at 68% of the total population or San Francisco, 69% of their total population. So it's a much higher figure. Now why that is important is because this is a much more challenging strain of the virus and because it's so darn contagious, what we originally had projected that is a 70% of adults providing some population level immunity. That's no longer the case because it gets so much spread. We have to up our defense. And that means getting as high as possible. Some estimates of 90%. Now it's important to point out. It's not just vaccines if people have had prior COVID that also contributes that natural immunity. It's not as good as having prior COVID and getting one dose of a vaccine. But the point being is that people that build the Delta wall of immunity are those who've had fully vaccinated or had prior COVID. And we need that number to be over 90% of all people. And if we get there, then we'll have the highest level of protection. Then we'll start to see the people who have no prior covert have no vaccines that they get protected, just because of our community. You know, many

Speaker 1: 04:15 In the region remain hesitant to get the vaccine and you've pointed to the need for full FDA approval to get us to where we need to be. What's your understanding of why these vaccines don't yet have full approval?

Speaker 2: 04:27 There is no good reason, uh, it should have been done by now, as you know, when I wrote the New York times op-ed weeks ago, there was a clear rationale that the Delta variant was going to cause very significant toll of infections and hospitalization as it's occurring, especially in certain parts of the country. Uh, and it was an emergency to get this thing done. And the FDA has had now over seven months to work on this because the full approval packet was being submitted, uh, serially starting in December for both the marinade vaccines Pfizer and Moderna, and only in recent hours, am I learning that the FDA is starting to put full resources of the entire agency onto this? So I am optimistic that we'll see a full approval in the weeks ahead. The problem is it's months overdue had we had the full approval. We would have had tens of millions of more people vaccinated by now because it would become a requirement for so many different entities we've seen in recent the past week, especially the mandate starting, but they would have started much earlier where the full approval granted by FDA had gone forward as it should have,

Speaker 1: 05:39 You know, while the Delta variant was the dominant strain and other countries, the U S began relaxing public health mandates. Do you think we've been proactive enough in this fight against

Speaker 2: 05:50 Not at all? No. Because for example, if we had rapid tests, these rapid paper tests, like other countries are given freely to household large number of them. So they have a supply. They could test frequently every day of need be as before they go out. And that would be ideal for schools for travel for just going out to shop or a restaurant or anything. And so we don't use that measure. And it's one of the critical tools that would especially help now because we can't differentiate people who are vaccinated, even though it's unusual, they could be carrying the infection that is in the days before they manifest symptoms. So w we're only firing on the one cylinder of relying on vaccination, but unfortunately, as you pointed out, too many people have been not getting vaccinated for one reason or another.

Speaker 1: 06:40 You know, some say San Diego county has also been slow to revert back to requiring masking amid the Delta surge. What message do you have for, for public health officials here? And what more do you think needs to be done?

Speaker 2: 06:53 We got to get back to masking and doors for sure, across the board. You know, that's, especially if you're going to be endorsed for any length of time, you know, more than a few minutes. And especially when you're with the group of people in an unventilated room, I mean, that's a recipe for trouble. So the mass help, the better quality, the mass help even more. So we should be doing that. You know, the problem we've had consistently in the pandemic is, you know, well, after when we could take proactive actions, now that Delta is almost every infection is a Delta infection. Then we finally wake up, you know, it's unfortunately we knew exactly every 10 days that Delta was going to double. I mean, we could, we could see this and we've done nothing until it's gotten to the point that it's at now, but it's still not too late. And we still should be redoubling our efforts to add to the vaccine protection, get more people vaccinated as quickly as we can get masks going, try to get these rapid tests, widely distributed, try to get better, masked out to everyone, get better tracking. All these things will help.

Speaker 1: 07:56 You mentioned the importance of masks, uh, what's the best kind of mask for people to wear?

Speaker 2: 08:02 Well, there's an N 95. You can get them. They ever now have adequate supply. You can order them from Amazon and other outlets, but they're still pretty expensive there, you know, at least three or $4 or more each, and then there's some that are counterfeits. So you have to be very careful that they're, they're a certified, there's a K 90 fours. There's several that are as good a protection as these very high quality masks that are cheaper, more like a dollar each or less. And so they're probably just as good as the N 90. Um, but you know, something at that level of quality and even consider double masking, that's what I'm doing now. I will use a and 95 and a cover of that. These are things that we should be doing until the Delta wave passes. It won't be long. I mean, we're probably, you know, at least another six to eight weeks, we get through that and Delta will be down at levels that will not be worrisome. We got to gear up until that point.

Speaker 1: 08:57 Is there anything else you, you want to mention or talk about that, that we

Speaker 2: 09:01 Haven't? No, there's no need to panic. We've got great vaccines. They're terrific. But we got to get them in more folks and follow the science, the safe and effectiveness of these vaccines are remarkable safety. And, um, you know, that should be something that we're doing well in San Diego, but we could do better, you know, up in the north and San Francisco, county's done far better in getting folks vaccinated. And, uh, they're doing better with preventing some of the increase in hospitalizations. So we should learn from them. We should learn, especially from Vermont, that's holding tight. If we can get those acts and nations up at the highest level, we'll be able to fend off Delta better. When

Speaker 1: 09:36 We first started this interview, you mentioned that the wrinkle in this is that there's now transmissibility among the vaccinated, but it's a small amount of people who are still transmitting this virus though. They're vaccinated. Do you think that that could change?

Speaker 2: 09:50 Well, it's going to get worse because you know, over time there's more exposure to the virus. So we're going to see more breakthrough infections and some more of those folks are going to get sick and some get hospitalized. So the early case with the variants, alpha beta gamma, we didn't see this. The vaccine tells out really well here. This is a much more challenging variant because of the very high load. And so, you know, that's, even though it's unusual, we'll see more people should be prepared for that. And that's just all the more reason to take precautions. So, you know, I think there's going to be consideration for booster shots. We would hope that eventually we'll get a, a universal vaccine against all Corona viruses in the months ahead. But, you know, I think right now we have to watch that point that this is a really tough strain of the virus and the fact that vaccinated people can get it.

Speaker 2: 10:42 Uh, even though it's not high frequency and you just don't know among your vaccinated family and friends, you just don't know, uh, could they be a carrier in the early days, uh, once they've been infected and whether they're even infectious, that's why the guidance with rapid testing could really help this so much. But, you know, I think our guard has to be up at this point, if not for a long time, but for this next several weeks, uh, is when it's going to be important, would you go to a baseball game right now outside? You know, the chances are extremely low. I, uh, you know, the only problem with being outside, if you're, if people are screaming and they're right at you, there's that theoretical possibility of an infection it's, it's very low, but that's something to think about, you know, if you are outdoors and just taking a walk and you're not having somebody breathe on, you yell at you, sing on you or whatever, it's different. So, you know, it's a matter of risk tolerance. You know, people have to make that decision themselves. There is some risks being close together with people, you know, yelling and screaming because that's where you get a lot more virus particles. And some of those people potentially, especially with Delta are going to have a knowingly, uh, in the times of being infected.

Speaker 1: 11:55 I've been speaking with Dr. Eric Topol, director of the Scripps research translational Institute and the Hoya Dr. Topol. Thank you very much for joining us today. Thanks for having me. You're listening to KPBS midday edition. I'm Jade. Hindman this weekend. If you're looking to get out with friends and family, there are three art exhibits across the county showcasing artwork from artists motivated by the pandemic era and community related challenges, KPBS arts editor and producer Julia Dixon Evans is office week and has asked Alisandra Moctezuma who is the gallery director and professor of art at San Diego messa college to fill our listeners in on some of the go-to art events this weekend. Alisandra welcome.

Speaker 3: 12:53 Thank you so much for having me in the program. So

Speaker 1: 12:56 This weekend is the last to see the art exhibit 20 women artists. Now, what was the inspiration for this exhibit?

Speaker 3: 13:04 This exhibit was actually planned by artist Julia Gray on myself. In 2019, we were trying to present what were some of the issues affecting women currently, and then 2020 happened. And we had to shift that some of the topics and the themes that were going to be covered by the exhibition. So the exhibit became actually in a way, a record of 2020 as the pandemic year on. So the artists had to be sequestered in their studios because of the quarantine, and they were dealing with topics that they were experiencing such us, the pandemic, the virus, also George Floyd on the black lives matter movement on the protests for social justice topics like climate change on the fires that also were affecting some of this artist, the iconic role of an important role of women, and also they were dealing with just how to find hope during those difficult times.

Speaker 1: 14:15 Can you tell us about one of the pieces in the exhibit that you personally connected with?

Speaker 3: 14:20 I really connected with a piece that was done by artists, Jillian Moss, and she actually created a mixed media piece that was about George Floyd on the protest on, in her pieces. She layered images of the hands holding the phones, which were recording in the tragic murder of George Floyd. And she also layered within images of some of the words like breathe that were connected with that incident, that, that very traumatic incident. So she actually created this beautiful compositions on she incorporated flowers. So they became also a Memorial to what had happened.

Speaker 1: 15:13 Uh, Sunday is the last day to see 20 women artists now at the Oceanside museum of art and the 2021 juried biennial exhibition is hosting its closing reception. This weekend, the exhibit features artwork by 30 local artists. What can guests expect if attending the closing reception?

Speaker 3: 15:33 It will be a great opportunity to see works by many of this artists, duke Winser, Melissa Walters, Stephanie bales, specie good teen Griselda, Rosa Perry, Vasquez, Kelsey Overstreet, Sage Serrano, and many others. And I think after being shut away during 2020, it's one of the chances that we have to get out on CR artists in person and ask them questions about the exhibition on there's. A wide range of works on view in different media on this was juried by Sonia sparks on Andrew up the

Speaker 1: 16:15 2021 juried biennial exhibition. Closing reception will be the Saturday from five 30 to 7:30 PM at the William D. Cannon art gallery in Carlsbad. Earlier this month, we spoke with Julia about SD practice, two exhibits that feature artwork, the city commissioned. It was part of the city's relief effort for artists during the pandemic. I understand some of the artwork of your former students is being showcased.

Speaker 3: 16:42 I just went to see the exhibition and it's two different locations. So it's at the San Diego art Institute in Balboa park, and it's also at bread on salt. They spread half of the worst at each location, and I was really thrilled and excited to see so many of our graduates, uh, represented in both locations on this. Our students who graduated and have gone on to some of them have done their master's degrees. Some of them have gone on to a career making art on some of the alumni that are featured in this exhibition are Andrew Casad, uh, cloudy [inaudible] [inaudible], uh, Nasim Nabab on Reinhard salvage. And they have, um, gone on to, um, study at UCLA San Diego state university. Um, and this is a really wonderful exhibition to see the breadth of works that are being, um, created here in San Diego. It was long overdue for the collection of the, to be expanded on, on. So this incorporates a hundred artworks into the civic arts collection on it's a very diverse, um, grouping of artists media on topics on many of this works will be permanently housed in some of our city libraries. SD

Speaker 1: 18:13 Practice will be on display through September 5th at the San Diego art Institute in Balboa park and bread and salt in Logan Heights for details on these and more arts events and to sign up for the weekly arts newsletter, go to kpbs.org/arts. I've been speaking with Alisandra Moctezuma thank you so much for joining us.

Speaker 3: 18:34 Thank you very much for having me as I guess today.

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KPBS Midday Edition is a daily talk show hosted by Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon, keeping San Diegans in the know on everything from politics to the arts.