This article was originally published in the Burbank Leader on Aug. 14
Burbank appeared certain this week to exceed the 10,000 mark for coronavirus cases reported since the start of the pandemic, a grim milestone for a city that is facing a surge of infections despite its high vaccination rate.
The Los Angeles County public health department reported that COVID-19 had infected 9,968 local residents as of Wednesday, according to the most recent statistics available by the Leader’s press deadline on Friday. Roughly 30 or 40 infections a day have been recorded for most of the past week.
Reaching the five-figure mark would indicate that in Burbank, whose estimated population is about 107,000, just over one in 11 residents has tested positive for COVID-19.
Burbank has grappled with a rising number of new coronavirus cases since late June, when an average of only two residents a day tested positive for the disease. The seven-day average this week was as high as 37.7 new cases a day, according to data provided by L.A. County, the highest it has been for the city since early February. That average, however, has flattened and even decreased in recent days; on Wednesday, it was 29 new cases a day.
Despite the increase in cases — which has been reported in cities across California and the United States as COVID-19’s highly infectious Delta variant became widespread — the local situation appears less dire than it was in the winter. At the peak of the pandemic, nearly 110 Burbank residents tested positive for the coronavirus every day.
Most of the new infections and hospitalizations in L.A. County, where more than 71% of residents have received at least one vaccine dose, have been among those who aren’t fully vaccinated. Though “breakthrough” cases in which those who have been fully inoculated become infected have become more common, such residents usually have less severe symptoms compared to people who haven’t gotten the shot.
L.A. County Director of Public Health Barbara Ferrer said recently that the risk of being hospitalized from COVID-19 in the county is about 19 times higher for someone who is not fully vaccinated than it is for someone who is, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The most recent county Department of Public Health data shows that nearly 74% of Burbank residents ages 12 and older had received at least one dose of the vaccine as of Aug. 8. About 61% of residents between 12 and 17 have gotten at least one shot, while the same is true for more than 85% of residents who are 65 and older.
As is the case in other areas, the number of Burbank residents getting their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine has very slightly increased in recent weeks after dropping sharply since April. The seven-day average on Aug. 1 showed nearly 100 newly vaccinated residents a day, compared with the average of about 70 on July 1. At Burbank’s peak, roughly 900 residents received the vaccine each day.
“Burbank has made so much progress with the number of residents getting vaccinated,” said Mayor Bob Frutos in a statement. “It’s important to keep that momentum up and stop this surge in COVID-19 cases. The unvaccinated people are most at risk and City Council urges them to get their shots.
“We also ask that everyone continue to abide by L.A. County’s mask mandate and wear masks indoors regardless of vaccination status. Our community can and will put an end to this current surge if we continue to work together.”
It is unclear how many Burbank residents have been hospitalized because of the coronavirus. The number of COVID-19 patients at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center has increased from about four in mid-June to roughly 24 in the beginning of August, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The hospital had about 150 coronavirus patients in early January.
Coronavirus deaths, an indicator that often lags greatly behind cases and hospitalizations, have remained rare in Burbank in recent months. The county public health department has recorded 246 deaths in Burbank due to COVID-19 as of Friday. Three of those were reported in the month prior, compared with about 40 over the same period between December and January.