Coronavirus infections have increased in just a week by 70%, with hospitalizations increasing 36% and deaths rising by 26%.
Public health officials blame the Delta variant for fueling the latest surge in the coronavirus pandemic, the New York Times reported, noting:
“Delta now accounts for more than half of new infections across the country, and case numbers have been rising in every state. Roughly 28,000 new cases are reported each day, up from just 11,000 a day less than a month ago.”
The latest, divisive, and worrisome increase in all the wrong measures for the pandemic also is proving distressing and unacceptable for a glaring reason: It is hugely preventable, experts say.
The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned that “this is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated.”
Cases, hospitalizations, and deaths remain far below the highs they hit last winter, as the New York Times reported. The vaccines are effective against Delta. But Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, head of the CDC, urged people to get fully vaccinated to safeguard themselves and everyone around them:
“Do it for yourself, your family and for your community. And please do it to protect your young children who right now can’t get vaccinated themselves.”
Alas, the coronavirus vaccines, as with other public health measures like face coverings and distancing, have become grossly politicized, notably by profit-hungry tech companies and social media know-nothings and conservative media personalities, who somehow fail to tell older, gullible audiences that the broadcasters and their corporate bosses have taken the reviled vaccinations themselves.
In L.A., the unvaccinated force unhappy new guidelines
Instead, a giant clamor denies the demonstrated safety and effectiveness of vaccines, especially for the coronavirus. And, in a 180 flip on reality, the population of the reticent or opposed are driving public health policy — in unhappy ways.
Los Angeles County, the nation’s most populous and sprawling with diverse communities of color and giant economic disparities, reinstated guidelines calling for face coverings for all people indoors. This is becoming a California trend, too, with other areas of the state following suit. Officials said they did not want to inconvenience the vaccinated, who have little likelihood of getting infected, having a severe enough case to require hospitalization, or now to die from coronavirus.
But all the metrics are going in the wrong direction in Los Angeles, and the simple step of face covering may be a significant way to change that — for example, by helping to reduce community spread and by dealing with unwelcome behaviors by the unvaccinated.
Too many individuals, at high risk for the coronavirus because they have not gotten shots, have taken freedoms meant for those safeguarded by vaccines. They have foregone measures that have worked to quell the pandemic, including covering their faces and engaging in close contacts, especially indoors.
So, in effect, the L.A. health officials told those who have acted in the greater good (and gotten their shots) that they must sacrifice a little freedom, more and again, because too many people cannot or will not get vaccinated.
This is occurring even as, in Southern California and across the country, vaccines have gone into abundant supply that is the envy (or cause for anger) around the globe. People can get vaccinated without appointment — at their doctors’ offices, drug stores, clinics, hospitals, and through continuing community and other events and locations. The vaccine is administered without cost.
Resistance reportedly turning to hostility
Yet, in the conspiracy-fomenting, upside-down world of political partisans, getting a shot that can save one’s life and prevent serious and too-often sustained illness — as well as benefiting one’s loved ones and community — has become an imposition, insult, or even a hostile violation. The conspiracies and fantasies grow wilder, including claims that vaccines alter individual’s genes, cause personal magnetism (as in having metal objects stick), or include the injection of tracking and controlling microchips.
All of this is nonsense, of course.
Vaccine makers and drug regulators, in the meantime, have taken major steps to ensure transparency about downsides of the novel inoculations. They have declared, including in warnings that accompany the vaccines, that they may have rare side effects on the nervous and circulatory systems in select groups of individuals. The reported and confirmed instances of severe reactions to the vaccines number in the dozens, while hundreds of millions of people have gotten the shots.
The federal Food and Drug Administration, which had no problems giving a controversial and accelerated approval to an Alzheimer’s drug (which more key parties are declining to support), could at least provide a timeline for when it might give full and final approval to the coronavirus vaccines. Such a move might increase public confidence in the shots, which are administered now under an emergency-use approval.
The giant University of California system had planned to wait for that green light before requiring students and staff to get vaccinated. No longer. The UC system joined an increasing number of private higher education institutions with a fall vaccine mandate.
Getting more people vaccinated
Officials have avoided such requirements, especially considering the furor that simple steps like face covering or distancing have provoked among some. But the push is on for mandates for health workers — which makes great common sense — as well as first-responders, and active-duty military personnel.
Could that increase the numbers of young people getting vaccinated? That might be a good step, considering that younger people slowly have become a major segment of those infected with coronavirus. Maybe the White House will see good results from trying to get pop stars like Olivia Rodrigo (with top infectious diseases expert Dr. Anthony Fauci) to persuade younger people to get vaccinated?
Who knows if the reckless politicians who play Russian roulette with residents of their areas will ever reconsider their vaccine and public health resistance, especially because a handful of states are bearing the brunt of the current viral surge, as the Washington Post reported:
“Florida emerged as a national hot spot, accounting for 1 in 5 cases in the past week. Four states were responsible for more than 40% of cases in the past week, health officials said. And 10% of counties have moved into ‘high transmission risk.’”
In my practice, I see not only the harms that patients suffer while seeking medical services, but also the damages that can be inflicted on them by an array of awful circumstances and things, including:
- dangerous drugs
- risky and defective products
- abuse and neglect in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
- and car, motorcycle, and truck crashes.
In these cases, a crowd of problem people and institutions — these can include doctors, hospitals, insurers, regulators, and politicians — may press victims to move on, settle up, and they fast forget the lonely agony of the suffering. It can, however, take a long time for patients to recover from terrible illness or injury. Harms can last a lifetime. Patients may need medical services, as well as financial and other support for months or years. They also need closure and justice for wrongs done, as well as the sense that they may be able to help others avoid the problems that afflicted them.
We are not done with the coronavirus and the huge trauma it has inflicted on us all. Please get vaccinated. All medical interventions carry risk. But vaccines’ benefits long have been shown to far outweigh their harms.