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The COVID Abides

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Photo by CDC  from Unsplash

Published in the Humboldt Independent on August 10, 2021. 

Masks are back and cases are up as everyone’s favorite Coronavirus makes a truly Olympic effort to ruin the rest of summer. Here in Humboldt County, we’re seeing as many COVID cases per day as we did during the height of the pandemic – more than 10% of all tests administered this past week came up positive for the virus. While around 70% of adults are presently vaccinated nationwide, once we include eligible children over 12 (colloquially referred to as “teenagers”), that rate drops to 58%. A 90% vaccination rate might be enough to pull off herd immunity, even in the face of the delta variant, and we can expect to reach that threshold by the end of March, 2022, based on the current number of vaccinations per day – and of course, current virus behavior.

…proof of vacciation is going to be another thing to have in your wallet pretty darn soon.

In practice, we may very well find out exactly how dedicated these vaccine holdouts are, as all signs point towards a world where proof of vaccination is going to be another thing to have in your wallet pretty darn soon. Employers will be allowed to require it, California state employees are already required to have it, and businesses are likewise allowed to require their customers to have it. Anything requiring enforcement will of course create all manner of complications, but it seems reasonable to assume that such mandates will help dampen the rising tide of cases and hopefully prevent another lockdown.

Some current topics of concern among both the has-vaxxed and the has-not-vaxxed

  1. Is delta the “doomsday” variant they say it is?
    No. No current strain of COVID has threatened the future of the human race, and as nasty as delta is, the main challenge it presents is how easily it spreads. Whereas a normal case of COVID had the average potential to cause 1.5 to 4 transmissions, the delta variant is responsible for 5-9 transmissions on average, making it about as contagious as chicken pox.
  2. How dangerous are the so-called “breakthrough” delta cases?
    The delta variant is between 2 and 4 times as likely to cause hospitalization in unvaccinated patients, but does not pose a significantly greater threat to those who’ve gotten the shot. Furthermore, asymptomatic and vaccinated patients are more likely to spread the delta variant to others.
  3. But what about the study that the vaccine is only 39% effective?
    From what I was able to discern, that study has been discredited due to bad math. Current data suggests vaccines are between 70-90% likely to prevent infection outright, (depending on which studies you reference), while maintaining a 93% rate of preventing hospitalization and death due to COVID.
  4. Do we need another shot?
    Right now, the recommendation is for those with already compromised or vulnerable immune systems to get a third shot. Contact your health care provider if you have any questions.
  5. Do the vaccines “wear off”?
    According to the CDC, there’s no measurable loss in efficacy after 14-20 weeks, but we’ll have to wait for more data (and more time) to know for sure. It’s not beyond the realm of possibility that we’ll need updated or “booster” vaccines in the future, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Critical months ahead

All data points towards vaccination being the most effective means of protecting yourself…

While there’s no way to know what’s in store for us, what we’re experiencing right now is nothing unusual – delta variant or not. All data points towards vaccination being the most effective means of protecting yourself and others. The next months will be critical in determining how (and if) we’re going to be able to put this pandemic behind us. If you have friends or family with questions or concerns about the vaccination process, be realistic: the safest thing for everyone might be to avoid direct contact with the unvaccinated whenever possible until this all blows over. Older or immunocompromised individuals should at least prepare for the possibility of self-quarantine. If patterns hold and the anti-vaxxers continue to come over to the side of reason, we’ll probably be in a much better place this time next year, or even in a few months. In the meantime, be patient, stay safe, and take care of each other.

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

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