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The Dangers of the Delta Variant: Can We Please Get Vaccinated?
Over the past month, the Delta variant has controlled the news cycle of almost all major news outlets. The ever-persistent spread of COVID-19 has dictated this past year and a half; our global community is tired. In March of 2020, we faced a similar crossroads. Instead of uniting as an international front to combat this virus, the actions of a minority served as a detriment to many. We cannot afford to repeat the same mistake with this strain because it could hurt us more than previously conceivable.
The first case of the Delta variant was found in India during its second and most deadly wave of COVID-19. It then made its way to the United Kingdom and then the United States, now the dominant variant of the disease. As of July 29th, there are over 71,000 new cases associated with the Delta variant. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this variant of COVID-19 is 50% more contagious than the first variant of COVID, as infectious as chickenpox and even more contagious than influenza or the common cold. The content of the virus in the Delta variant is also a thousandfold more than the Alpha variant, carried in the nose and throat equally regardless of vaccination status.
Currently, the vast majority of cases are in places with detrimentally low vaccination rates. This trend isn’t surprising at all. At the beginning of the pandemic, COVID-19 was spreading as rapidly, if not more, because of one overarching factor: a lack of immunity. This lack of immunity causes “hyperlocal outbreaks,” according to Yale Medicine. Hyperlocal outbreaks are more cases in a shorter period, and although this does not seem too sinister, it is far from ideal. Hyperlocal outbreaks will strain healthcare systems and leave most cases dead.
One such hyperlocal case is that of Florida. Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida has actively avoided all COVID protocols. His actions have been the catalyst of Florida’s current public health disaster. Florida is currently in the grip of a COVID surge worse than the Alpha variant, with 10,000 Floridians hospitalized, ten times more than New York. A ratio of 58 Floridians to 6 New Yorkers are dying every day. DeSantis has left no stone unturned in ignoring this virus by not requiring businesses to ask for vaccination proof or requiring masks in schools. As if those weren’t harmful enough, DeSantis has been actively spreading vaccine skepticism, most recently making gag t-shirts blatantly saying, “Don’t Fauci my Florida.”
It’s no surprise that Florida’s vaccination rates are much lower than states in the Northeast. What is even more disturbing is that the elderly population of Florida is more than it is in any state. The most vulnerable group is being put at unimaginable risk every single day in the state of Florida. DeSantis’ flood of excuses to protect “freedom” is scarily ironic. The state of Floridians is leaving them trapped in their homes with no sight of hope. Is that the freedom he stands for? Unfortunately, Florida isn’t the only state being hurt by this variant. Arkansas, Texas, and Louisiana have also been affected, taking the top spots for cases in America.
While there is still quite a bit to learn about Delta, including the need for booster shots and an even newer variant Delta Plus on the rising, Yale Medicine is sure on one point. The COVID vaccine is our only hope for achieving immunity if you can take it. However, vaccinated people aren’t 100% immune. According to data collected by the CDC, as of July 24, there are “35,000 symptomatic infections per week among 162 million vaccinated Americans.” There was also a case in Providence, MA, of an 882-person outbreak. 74% of them were vaccinated. However, if vaccinated people do catch it, they barely face any symptoms. Masking is also equally important, with the CDC enforcing new mask guidelines requiring all vaccinated and unvaccinated people to wear masks indoors and K-12 schools requiring masks for another school year. Even those guidelines might not be enough, according to the internal document from the CDC. People with weaker immune systems and childcare workers will probably have to go back to masking full-time.
Thankfully, most of the general public is waking up to the realities of this variant. According to NIH’s Dr. Francis Collins, “This [vaccination increase] is exactly what needs to happen.” Although vaccination rates are lower than the rates in February, they are climbing. On July 31st, more than 816,000 doses of the vaccine were administered in the United States, marking the fifth day in a row where vaccination rates were more than 700,000, reaching the highest average since July 7th. This increase is likely because of more trust in leaders and the visible results of vaccination. Although this is considerably good news, vaccination is the key to this rate of success. In states such as Florida and Louisiana, the loss being faced is tremendous.
We cannot let politics affect our actions to stop this virus. Although leaders like DeSantis will always exist, we need to unite to tackle our challenges because COVID doesn’t discriminate. Political leaders take different stances for political reasons. However, we as a global community have been given the same choice time and time again; to unite or stay divided. Unfortunately, we usually choose the latter. Can we please do better this time? The state of the unvaccinated is jarring to see on our television screens every day. We know what is going on for the most part. We know the dangers of this virus. We know the guidelines. If you can, get your vaccine. Spread awareness about vaccine clinics in your area. Wear your mask (even if you are vaccinated).
Most importantly, be considerate. This virus has taken a lot from us, and the only way we can be a united front is if we understand our neighbors and engage in healthy discourse. The world has been watching us since the COVID-19 pandemic began, and hopefully, with vaccination rates going up, we can continue a newly decent trend and nip Delta in the bud, so we can finally get on with our lives.
Preeti Kulkarni is a rising junior at Academy of the Holy Cross in Bethesda, MD, where she is an active part of the Tartan Times, a program designed to engrain social action, a desire for change, and journalism in the Holy Cross community, as a writer.