the Unvaccinated, the Vicious Delta Variant, and the rest of America

They, those who refuse to be vaccinated, endanger others while placing themselves at risk. But, hey, it’s a free country.

I am not writing this column to convince those who are determined not to get vaccinated to change their minds. Really, I’m not, because I am convinced they are not convincible. I do, however, think it is a good idea for those who refuse to be vaccinated to think twice before congregating with any of the 15 million Americans under the age of 65, including children, who, for various medical reasons, have compromised immune systems, as well as the 55 million Americans who are senior citizens and may, therefore, have less robust immune systems with which to fight the far more virulent Delta variant, even though they may have wisely chosen to be vaccinated.

Unvaccinated populations, and that includes children, remain the most vulnerable. This is especially relevant because children below age 12 are not yet eligible for vaccination, and medical experts are worried about a potential wave of new cases in the fall as the school year gets underway.

The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that more than 4 million children have been diagnosed with Covid-19 or about 14.2 percent of all cases, including 31,000 new cases that were reported between June 24 and July 8. While serious complications in children have been extremely rare, there is growing concern that more serious cases among children will increase as the more virulent Delta variant spreads.

The deliberately unvaccinated have, with eyes wide open, pretty much self-selected themselves to comprise the universe of those who are highly vulnerable to the remarkably infectious variants of COVID-19. How vulnerable are they?  The Delta variant, which is now the dominant COVID virus in the United States, spreads about 225% faster than the original COVID virus. That’s because it grows and spreads much more rapidly inside the respiratory tract of those who are infected. That’s why they get so much sicker. To be precise, the Delta variant will introduce an estimated 1,000 times more copies of the virus into the respiratory system of those who are infected than did the original COVID-19 virus. That’s a lot of pretty awful disease spreading in these new COVID patients.

Think of a virus as a microscopic, inanimate, and inactive packet of genetic material present in the environment that is quite harmless until it is introduced or infiltrates or, figuratively, hijacks a host cell of another living creature; maybe an animal or, more specifically, a person. That hijacked host cell then begins manufacturing viral material from the virus instead of performing the cell’s intended necessary function. When these new cells begin producing viral material that affects the human host in a detrimental or even deadly manner, as happens with COVID-19, we call that a disease. As is true in all genetic replication, sometimes copying errors occur. When that happens, a variant, such as DELTA is born. So, unvaccinated people, those who are now responsible for nearly all of the new cases of COVID-19, are actually responsible for the mass manufacture of these new and often more dangerous variants. These variants will continue to evolve and threaten people as long as COVID-19 finds vulnerable hosts or, more specifically, unvaccinated people.

Hospitals all over the country that worked valiantly to fight COVID-19 in 2020 are now seeing a frightening new uptick in cases, nearly all of which are among unvaccinated victims of the very dangerous Delta variant. Case in point, the Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, California, close to my home, has successfully treated and discharged 6,844 cases of COVID-19. Eisenhower had as many as 163 COVID inpatients at one time. Just before the recent July 4th weekend, Eisenhower had only one COVID patient. As I write this column two and a half weeks later, the hospital has 14 COVID patients (a three-month high).

I know several people who were successfully treated for COVID-19 at Eisenhower. One friend who was a COVID patient at Eisenhower wrote to tell me he wept as he watched how hard the Eisenhower staff worked to save their patients. And sadly, I, like so many, had friends who didn’t survive COVID. 

Today, the CDC reports that nearly ninety percent of new COVID patients are infected with the more virulent Delta variant, the strain that deposits more than 1000 times more viral copies of itself into the respiratory tract of its victims than did the original strain of Covid-19.

There is a growing consensus among epidemiologists that COVID is now reaching or has reached endemic status in the United States. That’s a very sorry reality. It means COVID is much more than just another epidemic that comes and goes. It means COVID isn’t going anywhere. As the folks at State Farm tell us; Like a (not so) Good Neighbor, COVID is there.

This is very serious stuff. Because so many of our fellow Americans have refused to get vaccinated; COVID probably now calls America home. It means COVID will probably never die out in America. COVID will, more than likely, remain with us in an endemic steady state. Infections that begin as an epidemic either eventually die out (with some possibility of cyclically resurging from time to time) or, owing to insufficient inoculation of the population, reach the endemic steady state we seem to have reached, or are about to reach in America.

History will not look kindly at this moment. According to CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, 83% of new COVID cases are of the more virulent Delta variant. One can probably assume that almost every new case of COVID in America is transmitted to some unvaccinated person by another unvaccinated person.

As I complete this column today, the current 7-day moving average of daily new COVID cases in the United States is 40,246, a 46.7% increase over the previous 7-day moving average. It didn’t have to be this way, but as I noted at the top of this column, hey, it’s a free country.

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17 thoughts on “the Unvaccinated, the Vicious Delta Variant, and the rest of America”

  1. The greater number of viral replications, the greater likelihood that an error (mutation) in the RNA of the virus will occur. Most mutations are deleterious to the virus, but sooner or later a mutation or a combination of mutations can occur which make those viruses more virulent (infectious) or by random alteration, RESISTANT to vaccine induced antibodies.

    That is perhaps the greatest reason for all to be vaccinated. The fewer infected people, symptomatic or not, there then is an enormous reduction in total viral replications, and a greatly reduced opportunity for those random mutations which could further increase infectivity or lead to obviating the effectiveness of current vaccines.

  2. The vaccine should be mandatory in this country. Anti-vaxers and Trumpers be damned, nobody has the right to endanger others. While it is inexplicable to me why anyone would risk a terrible suffocating death by refusing the vaccine, the larger issue is public endangerment. Fareed Zakaria this morning mentioned that Macron in France has initiated a Passport of sorts whereby unvaccinated people cannot enter many public places. This Passport is a minimum protective device. When we are dealing with a virulent highly transmissible disease, the vaccine should be as mandatory as a drivers license, or as Zakaria pointed out, as registration for the draft or as paying taxes.

  3. Response to Sheila: I agree! This is not a question of individual rights but a nationwide public health issue… It is the responsibility of the appropriate governmental agencies to initiate measures to protect the citizenry from the under informed and the over politicized members of society who selfishly oppose appropriate public health measures.. Dr. Kaback’s erudite discussion of mutation producing variants is all anyone really needs to know… Mandatory vaccinations will save millions from short term morbidity/mortality and long term very serious sequelae …

  4. Excellent essay Hal. Mike, Sheila & Stephen said it well. I have lost all patience w/anti vaccine folks & Trumpers; combined they put our democracy at risk & now our very health. It’s time we call them out and stop playing nice. There is no reasoning with ideologues.

  5. Liberals always blame the Trumpers as their scapegoats. I am a Trumper and my two best friends are Trumpers, but we are all vaccinated.
    The lowest percentage of people being vaccinated are those between ages 16-30, Hispanics, and Blacks. Hispanics and Blacks have had the largest percentages of Covid, yet no one tries to get them vaccinated because they will be labeled as racists.

  6. Firstly I wasn’t aware of “Trumpers” being against taking the vaccine.
    And I am surprised that there is no mention of the indeterminate huge number of illegal immigrants crossing our southern that are not being checked for Covid and any other communicable diseases. Please explain this omission.

  7. ECG is correct. Biden is letting in thousands of illegal immigrants and no one checks them for Covid or other diseases. This may be another reason for the big uptick of Covid cases today. Is anyone vaccinating the illegals?

  8. If this government has authority over anyone, it should be the illegals or others seeking asylum in this country. I don’t understand why the vaccine would not be the first requirement.
    You are right Hal, you can’t convince the unvaccinated until it happens to them, as to my niece, who refused the vaccine and to wear a mask. She spent 63 days on a ventilator. After 3 1/2 months was able to sit up by herself. She is repented, too late.
    We have testimonials from many with the same story, but it falls on deaf ears until it happens.

  9. THANK YOU Hal again, for a factual and thorough essay, and not posting blame on Trumpers for being the anti-vaccinated, and that they should “be damned, and endangering others”. (Sheila) I know many liberals that are not vaccinated. I also know many Republicans that are not Trumpers. The large number of illegal immigrants everyday need to be tested immediately before they are allowed in our country. I feel the Biden Administration’s immigration process is definitely endangering “our very health”. (Charles)

  10. As a condition of receiving welfare payments you need to show proof of vaccination

  11. Strange. Every poll that’s been taken recently shows that the overwhelming majority of those definitely planning not to be vaccinated are Republicans. Can someone tell me why? Does this virus attack only Democrats?

  12. I can’t understand why those of us who have been vaccinated are so concerned with others who chose not to. We are safe. They are not, but that is what they chose. They know the risk, and they decided to take it. For the same reason, I am not concerned about drivers who choose not to wear seat belts. As to the externalities referred to by Dr. Kaback, I submit this essay by the economist Donald Boudreaux https://www.aier.org/article/externality-is-no-good-excuse-for-mandatory-vaccination/

  13. I cannot think of a Republican that I know that hasn’t had the vaccine. Sadly, this is not true for my more liberal family and friends… highly educated yet anti vaccine. I truly do not understand the reluctance. ?? Do I think it’s irresponsible… absolutely.
    Some believe because they had a light case early on ( not hospitalized and recovered that they don’t “need” it. None of Physicians and Specialists agree ..,, Just get the vaccinated be for others if not yourself ..,.

  14. These are the same people who would have rejected the polio vaccine in the 50s.
    I personally believe that everyone in the country should be vaccinated—including persons entering from border countries. If our country is to survive and thrive- if there will ever be a normal pre covid life again, the Covid vaccination must be mandatory for every person entering and living within our borders.

  15. Wise people in all disciplines look behind them,in front of them, and what is happening now. It seems that some people must be afraid to confront the now and refuse to deal with what will be in front of them. They only concentrate on what was in back of them——-trump. Every issue that Hal talks about gets anti trump obsessions by readers.trump didn’t cause many of our current problems so how about dealing with the current problems and how we overcome them instead of blindly obsessing with trump.

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