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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