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Morning Brief: The Delta Variant, Emergency Use, And Whirlybirds

A man stands outside a blue pop-up structure with the words COVID-19 Test running down its side.
Coronavirus testing
(Chava Sanchez
LAist )
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Good morning, L.A. It’s August 4.

As information about the delta variant continues to evolve, some Angelenos are reeling from its unexpected effects.

My colleague Jackie Fortiér spoke with a family that planned a trip to Disneyland just as California was reopening in June, with the goal of getting to visit the park before another coronavirus surge gripped the region.

“I wanted to beat the inevitable rise in cases that would come with reopening, to minimize our chances, even as vaccinated people,” said dad Mike McHargue. “There wasn't a lot of case spread in the community yet. On paper it worked.”

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Instead, after their trip, three of the four fully vaccinated family members were diagnosed with COVID-19. The delta variant is likely to blame in situations such as this, said Eric Topol, a physician and molecular medicine professor at Scripps Research in La Jolla.

“If it hadn't been for Delta, we wouldn't be in this situation,” Topol said. “The real issue is that we don't know the transmission rate [between vaccinated people], but we do know it’s happening.”

The delta variant becomes contagious faster once contracted, and produces a higher amount of the virus in affected peoples’ bodies. Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggested that vaccinated people can spread delta just as easily as unvaccinated people.

Speaking on our newsroom’s AirTalk program, Dr. Dean Blumberg, Professor of Medicine and Chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at UC Davis, added that the Delta variant is largely being spread by people who don't show symptoms.

Keep reading for more on what’s happening in L.A., and stay safe out there.

What Else You Need To Know Today

  • Two L.A. County Supervisors will propose that all county workers be vaccinated or be tested regularly.
  • Some people are waiting for the FDA to take COVID-19 vaccines off "Emergency Use Only" status before they get the shot, but experts say there's no reason to wait.
  • Not everyone who needs help buying food is aware of the programs that can assist them.
  • The challenges faced by a Huntington Park-based publisher of Latino-themed and bilingual children's books highlight the difficulties of publishing kids' books that reflect diversity.

Before You Go ... A Whirlybird Documentary

A helicopter with a person aiming a camera out the open door.
Shooting footage from a helicopter in a still from "Whirlybird," as Zoey Tur pilots.
(Los Angeles News Service)

Helicopter news wasn't always the centerpiece of local TV news coverage that it's been in recent decades. The new documentary, Whirlybird, follows helicopter reporter Zoey Tur and her then-wife Marika Gerrard's work covering breaking news across the city — most notably as a helicopter pilot — while also telling the complex story of their relationship.

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"I don't think that there's anybody who so thoroughly captured Los Angeles during the '80s and '90s as Zoey Tur and Marika Gerrard," Whirlybird director Matt Yoka told LAist. "It's just unbelievable that two people could have captured as much as they did of the city."

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