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COVID-19 Uptick Triggers Concern

At Cedars-Sinai, Most New COVID-19 Patients Are Young Adults Who Skipped Vaccination; Healthcare Professionals Urge All to Get the Shot, Stop the Spread

A month after the governor eased pandemic restrictions, it feels almost like a normal summer in Southern California's crowded restaurants, airplanes and beaches.

But it's a different feeling in the Ruth and Harry Roman Emergency Department, with physicians and nurses concerned that many are prematurely celebrating the end of the pandemic.

During the past two weeks, the Cedars-Sinai Emergency Department team has seen a sevenfold increase in patients who have been treated for COVID-19-related issues.

"Less than a month ago we were seeing one or two cases a day related to COVID-19 symptoms, but within the last two weeks, that number has risen to seven to 15 cases," said Sam Torbati, MD, co-chair and medical director of the Emergency Department.

Torbati is particularly concerned because the recent patients have been predominantly unvaccinated people 20-40 years old who would not have gotten sick if they had been vaccinated. The result is a slight increase in hospitalizations.

"Get a vaccine. It's safe, it's effective. It's a responsibility that everybody has to themselves, their family members, and to their community, not to become the next spreader of this highly contagious virus," Torbati said.

Caroline Goldzweig, MD, chief medical officer of the Cedars-Sinai Medical Network, echoed Torbati's concerns. She said that urgent care centers also are seeing an increase in unvaccinated patients with COVID-19 symptoms.

"The vaccine is still the most powerful tool we have to prevent an infection from the virus that causes COVID-19," she said.

In addition to protecting one's own family and friends, getting vaccinated is a "thank you" to frontline medical professionals who have been stretched to the limit during the past 16 months.

"Our team's morale can take a hit when we see so many young and unvaccinated people getting sick," Torbati said. "When you see a sevenfold increase in any disease in your community, you have to raise your eyebrow. With COVID-19, we've had experience, we know what spikes look like and when we have to look into it to understand the underlying cause, this is one we are watching."

The situation is the same in the Emergency Department at Cedars-Sinai Marina del Rey Hospital.

"We're concerned that this is occurring about one week after the Fourth of July, when many people gathered together. We also are concerned that this is related to the Delta variant," said David Watkins, MSN, RN, director of the Emergency Department.

As of June 12, the Delta variant made up nearly half of all variants in L.A. County and is responsible for 1 in every 5 new infections across the country. Of those in L.A. County who contracted the Delta variant, 89% had not been vaccinated. 

"All viruses are constantly mutating all the time," said Michael Ben-Aderet, MD, associate medical director of Hospital Epidemiology at Cedars-Sinai. "So, the more virus you have circulating, the more mutations you're going to have. The Delta variant came out of a massive COVID-19 surge in India. The Alpha variant came out of a massive surge in the United Kingdom. Vaccination is really the key to putting the brakes on and stopping mutation. Those people who aren't vaccinated need to be responsible, disclose that to others, wear that mask, and get vaccinated as soon as possible."

Cedars-Sinai is offering COVID-19 vaccinations at no charge at convenient pop-up locations:

July 14, 3–6 p.m., Children's Institute, 7226 Figueroa St., Los Angeles, CA 90003

July 20, 3-6 p.m., Children's Institute, 9527 S Main St., Los Angeles, CA, 90003

July 21, 3-6 p.m., Children's Institute, 9022 S. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles, CA, 90044

July 22, 9 a.m-12 p.m., Wilshire Presbyterian Church, 300 S. Western Ave., Los Angeles, CA, 90020

July 29, 3-6 p.m., Children's Institute, 1522 E. 102nd St., Los Angeles, CA, 90002

Aug. 1, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Graff Lab, 1038 Venice Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90015

Aug. 12, 9 a.m.-12 p.m., Wilshire Presbyterian Church, 300 S. Western Ave., Los Angeles, CA, 90020

Current Cedars-Sinai patients also can make COVID-19 vaccination appointments by opening their My CS-Link™ app or calling 1-855-427-5465. All Californians also can visit the California Department of Public Health's My Turn website to find a nearby clinic.

Read more on the Cedars-Sinai Blog: What to Do With Your Vaccination Card