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Running from the Numbers

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Photo by AllGo  from Unsplash

Published in the Humboldt Independent on July 27, 2021

It’s been over a month since California eased up on COVID-19-related restrictions, ushering in a festivity of media speculation and statistical acrobatics as some numbers go up and the virus continues to be a virus. Our anxieties cry out for a carnivorous, mutant breed of COVID-19 that ignores vaccines and parks illegally in the handicapped parking spot at the post office, but this variant has yet to arrive, despite the promises of so many headlines.

Even the dread delta variant falls far short of the hype. According to a paper analyzing the delta variant in the Houston, Texas area, around 20% of all recorded delta cases were “breakthrough” cases, or those cases affecting already vaccinated individuals. This does not, however, mean that your vaccine only “works” 80% of the time. Only 1.6% of COVID-19 cases are breakthrough delta variant cases. Furthermore, many potential breakthrough cases are too mild or asymptomatic (thanks largely to the vaccine) to require or receive attention, let alone hospitalization.

The “Dreaded Delta”

About half of all Americans so far are unable or unwilling to get vaccinated…

The delta variant is really worth mentioning because of what our top medical brass are calling a “pandemic of the unvaccinated”. Those who haven’t gotten the shot account for an alleged 99% of deaths and 97% of hospitalizations due to COVID-19. Around half of all Americans are so far unable or unwilling to get vaccinated and since the virus is no longer being forcibly muzzled like the unrepentant misanthrope chihuahuas they are, we are watching the case numbers climb back up.

Some jurisdictions are acting preemptively: mask mandates are back in L.A. County, and may be coming back across the state. Alongside San Francisco, L.A., and several other California counties, both Humboldt and Mendocino County are currently tracking over ten new cases per 100,000 residents, a number which would place them in the dreaded purple tier – if we were still tracking tiers (which we haven’t since the Blueprint for a Safer Economy was shelved on June 15th).

Is tribalism clouding your judgment?

It is stunning how this simple virus has forced our hand. A tiny wad of self-replicating murder genes has not only revealed the paradox and dilemma of free communication across a global civilization of multicellular organisms – it also got us money from the government. While we should be better able to educate and inform ourselves with the wonders of modern technology, instead we have often enough cloistered ourselves away with like-minded friends and family. We read things to reinforce our opinions and disregard things that contradict them. The anti-vaccine contingent does this, and I did it while preparing this article. If you’re reading this, you probably already agree with me, so that makes you guilty as well. This sort of tribalism isn’t something any of us are immune to. As frustrating as it gets out there, don’t let it cloud your own thoughts. If anything, recognize that fear causes us all to seek answers, and we are all witness to a fearful time. Be as supportive as you can towards your unvaccinated friends and family, but please, do it with a mask on. From a safe distance.

We read things to reinforce our opinions and disregard things that contradict them.

If you’re looking for reliable information to use as munitions for the Great Vaccine Internet War, give it a rest, for your own sanity. If you’re looking for reliable information to ease your gnawing sense of terror, try to pay attention to hospitalization rates and death rates among the vaccinated. There are plenty of truly wondrous resources available online for comparing all manner of COVID-19 data and statistics across the globe. Stick to official statements from the CDC or the WHO, which are usually what the news agencies are chop-shopping anyway. Feel free to ask your healthcare provider what they think, if you want a more personal and professional angle. And most importantly, don’t be afraid to give it a rest – I’m sure COVID will still be here when you get back.

Galen Lastko, submitted on behalf of the SoHum Health’s Outreach department.

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