As tens of millions of travelers hit the road to enjoy the Labor Day weekend, public health officials warned the unvaccinated anew against moving around freely during the holiday marking the unofficial end of summer. Authorities cautioned the vaccinated, too, against letting their guard down as the Delta variant fuels a fourth, deadly surge in the coronavirus pandemic.
Infections, hospitalizations, and deaths have spiked after too many of the holidays in recent months, experts say. And the sunny optimism that led health officials to forecast a significant quelling of the coronavirus by this summer’s Independence Day has, of course, wilted in the continuing rise of the Delta onslaught.
The U.S. health care system, already buckling in many regions under the pandemic’s terrible recent spike, underwent more pummeling by raging Western wildfires and a hurricane that drenched the Gulf Coast and then pounded the Northeast with spin-off weather calamities (like a tornado) and drenching rains. The inundation of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York claimed dozens of lives and wreaked havoc on regional infrastructure, even as Gulf Coast residents struggled with unbearable late-summer heat and humidity and without basics like dependable food and water supplies, reliable electric power, and undamaged and livable housing.
While Louisiana residents may have breathed a small sigh of relief that Hurricane Ida did not inflict the horrendous damage a Category 4 storm like it might, powerful winds and drenching rains created yet more misery for hospitals already overwhelmed with pandemic patients and for nursing homes and other long-term care facilities seeking to safeguard residents who have endured grim months due to coronavirus.
News outlets reported on the difficulties overcome by brave health workers treating coronavirus patients on respirators and other electric-powered medical equipment as Ida crashed utilities across the Gulf Coast. Reporters detailed how nursing homes protected or evacuated the aged, sick, and injured — highly vulnerable people already terrified by dealing the pandemic as it struck their facilities. An investigation also is under way into four residents’ deaths during their move from an already problematic Louisiana facility to a squalid evacuation center.
Federal officials implored the unvaccinated to get their coronavirus shots and to avoid moving around freely, including with holiday travel, and further fueling the Delta spike. Vaccination rates are rising after they stalled for a period due to efforts by political partisans and extremists to undercut centuries of scientific evidence about the considerable benefits and low risks of vaccines.
Challenges for booster shot plan
The Biden Administration, in the meantime, may be running into problems in pushing for booster shots starting after Sept. 20 and aiming to remedy what seems to be growing scientific evidence of the coronavirus vaccines’ waning effectiveness over time.
The shots provide solid safeguards against infections, hospitalization, and death from the coronavirus, including its Delta variant and the lingering and prolonged condition that experts call “long Covid.” While the president has pushed for widespread boosters to be shot in the arms of at least certain key groups (health workers, first-responders, older Americans, and the immunocompromised), vaccine experts have told the administration to ratchet back this plan until more data is available to justify giving another round of shots. The boosters may be a medically defensible measure for health workers and seniors, particularly if they got the Pfizer vaccine.
Moderna, another vaccine maker, may stall further federal blessing of its coronavirus booster because it is lagging in supplying requested and appropriate information from its studies on its vaccine’s waning potency.
The pressure, though, is building by the moment for the White House and public health officials across the country to intensify the campaign against the Delta variant surge, notably with steadily increasing mandates for face coverings and vaccines. These are coming from the federal government and affecting U.S. personnel, the military, and health workers.
With schools reopening, kids struggle with the virus
Rising numbers of businesses, government bodies, colleges and universities, and schools are imposing face covering and vaccine mandates. While educators and parents desperately want kids back in school, youngsters too often are falling ill with the coronavirus. Kids made up just under a quarter of the weekly, spiking, and reported coronavirus cases across the county.
Children younger than 12 are ineligible to receive coronavirus vaccines, pending further research on their safety, effectiveness, and appropriate dosage. Pediatricians have told parents to wait for regulators to determine these crucial vaccine elements before clamoring for kid shots, which, theoretically can be administered “off label” with full federal approval of the Pfizer vaccine.
The frustrating tussle, meantime, continues over common sense pandemic measures — especially to protect vulnerable youngsters, seniors, the immunocompromised and other. Some parents continue to protest schools’ requirements that students older than 12 get vaccinated against the coronavirus (as they do for multiple other infectious diseases) and that all youngsters wear face coverings and distance. The yelping persists even as districts deal with coronavirus outbreaks and are forced to test and order quarantines for exposed and infected children.
As President Biden likes to say, C’mon, man. Must we keep up total nonsense, such as the risky and unfounded practice of taking livestock medications, rather than getting on with evidence-based tactics to battle a disease that has killed 650,000 Americans and infected 40 million of us. It is unacceptable that the nation is tallying 1,500 deaths a day during the Delta surge, a largely preventable calamity.
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. The country got to savor this summer, even briefly, what the world might be like with this nightmare quelled more and greater normality restored. Please get tested, if appropriate, and vaccinated. Officials are trying to make it as easy and convenient, as possible — and it’s free. All medical interventions carry risk. But vaccines’ benefits long have been shown to far outweigh their harms.