First published in the Sept. 3 print issue of the South Pasadena Review.
Before July, the coronavirus appeared to have all but stalled in South Pasadena.
That relief did not last, however, as daily new case rates took off again that month throughout all of Los Angeles County, driven primarily by the spread of the Delta variant of the virus and concentrated largely among the unvaccinated. In South Pasadena, nearly 1% of the population was reported to have contracted the disease between July 1 and Aug. 31, according to testing data from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
In that window, there were 268 positive COVID-19 test results from South Pasadena residents. By comparison, from June 1-30 — when cases throughout the county reached an all-time low, and most restrictions, including requirements to wear masks, had been dropped for vaccinated folks — the city registered a total of three new COVID-19 cases.
There is some evidence of a recent slowdown. As numbers throughout the county have again started to taper off, so too have caseloads in South Pasadena. From Aug. 25-31, there were just 17 recorded new cases here; by comparison, there were 50 new cases recorded in each of the periods from Aug. 11-18 and July 28-Aug. 4.
Additionally, the South Pasadena Fire Department has said its emergency responses have not involved as many COVID-19 patients needing hospitalization as in past surges.
“The Fire Department’s response levels have stayed pretty consistent [at normal levels] throughout this Delta-driven surge,” a city official said in response to questions sent to Fire Chief Paul Riddle. “The infection rates in L.A. County have been declining as well over the past week which hopefully will keep our call load the same.”
City officials were unsure whether a significant portion of local cases were among unvaccinated people — the question is not a part of the SPFD’s screening process. However, county public health officials have in recent weeks noted that the vast majority of COVID-19 patients who require hospitalization are unvaccinated, and also that vaccinated people are significantly less likely to contract the disease.
Locally, Huntington Hospital reported on Tuesday that it had 10 COVID-19 patients in its intensive care unit and a total of 29 inpatients with the disease.
In South Pasadena, 85.3% of residents age 12 and older — representing 19,949 out of an estimated 23,381 such residents — have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Of local residents age 65 and older, the county reports that 91.9% — 3,791 of 4,123 — have gotten at least one dose. The county does not have published vaccination data on the city’s approximately 1,875 residents ages 12-17.
“The trend in the number of confirmed cases and the case rate in South Pasadena does in fact seem to be declining,” the city official said. “This certainly could be a result of the high vaccination rates in the city. Our response levels staying near normal is also a good indicator of the effectiveness and our personnel appreciate any help we can get in responding to this pandemic.”
Overall, since March 2020 the county has recorded 1,600 cases of COVID-19 among South Pasadena residents, with most of the infections having occurred during the winter surge that saw daily new case rates exceeding 20,000 through L.A. County. The disease has killed 44 South Pasadena residents, according to the health department.
Although the South Pasadena Care Center was among the initial outbreak locations at the start of the pandemic, its situation appears to be more stable this year. It has not been listed as an active outbreak setting by the county.
“We check in with staff of the Care Center periodically and conditions appear to be stable,” the city said. “We have not had a significant increase in responses to the Care Center for suspected COVID-19 patients either.”