Los Angeles County's Barbara Ferrer Warns of Future Masks and Restrictions as Covid Cases Level Off and Deaths Plummet
Because...BA2, but do cases matter and do masks really stop spread?
April 7, 2022
April 1, 2022 - At a media briefing yesterday, Los Angeles County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer, PhD, MPH, MEd, grasped wildly for all available evidence she should maintain a stranglehold on the lives and livelihoods of area residents despite the continuing decline in hospitalizations and deaths.
Having devised an "Early Alert signal" System that makes certain some "signal," no matter how irrelevant, will be triggered, Ferrer yesterday triumphantly pointed to the increasing rise in percent of the BA2 variant of the Covid-19 virus in the county. At 32% of sequences sampled on March 12 (yes, almost three weeks ago), BA2 is on its way to taking over the BA1.1 variant that has been dominant since early January. This is ominous, Ferrer told the media at the virtual presser, and then pointed out BA2 is the dominant strain where new surges are occurring in Europe. "We need to be prepared for the possibility BA2 or some other variant could require...measures of mitigation," Ferrer warned.
She then proceeded to show a color-coded map of case numbers by country as provided by that notable medical and scientific journal, the New York Times. This was an unfortunate choice for the point she was trying to make. In deep purple, showing the highest number of cases, was Australia. Australia still employs strict lockdown restrictions, including limits on home gatherings, indoor masking, and widespread vaccine mandates.
And yet, look at that deep purple. The same deep purple as in parts of Europe where restrictions have been largely lifted.
Left out of this discussion, naturally, is any correlation to the numbers that are actually important, namely hospitalizations - since a large number of Covid-related cases could strain that system - and deaths - since most people would like to avoid an unnecessarily early death.
Despite the proportionate, sharply rising percent of BA2 in the population, both hospitalizations and deaths are only decreasing - even weeks after the lifting of masking and many vaccine mandates.
BA2 is reported to be about 30% more transmissible than the BA1 variant, but is not thought to produce more serious disease. The same was said of the original Omicron variant, which not only didn't produce more serious disease, but produced vastly less deadly disease. In fact, each variant the county has experienced has been less deadly than the last. The overall death-to-case rate for the county's vaccinated population during this past winter's Omicron surge was similar to that of the seasonal flu, around 0.1%. For the unvaccinated it was twice that - still a very low number when speaking of case fatality rates. Of deaths from Covid-19 in the county, roughly 80% involve underlying conditions, as deduced from the sparse information given on the subject by county health officials.
When asked if health officials were going to make the county go backward in terms of restrictions, reimposing masks and vaccine mandates, Ferrer said, "I don't see it as going backward." She added, "I think of it as living with Covid."
What Ferrer really means is that she wants to recalibrate the public's perception of their risk tolerance so that she can claim she is managing case rates (she is not and never has - please look at the graph of every surge) and keep her $454,913 per year job.