By Ruth Werner
Okay, here’s the deal:
The diagnosis rate, hospitalization rate, and death rate from COVID-19 is up in almost every state—some more than others. Some regions of the country are particular hot spots with high positivity rates, crowded hospitals, and overworked medical staffs. It is not a coincidence that these areas also have the lowest vaccination rates in the country.
That said, vaccines are only one part of keeping ourselves and others safe. To break out an already overused analogy, if COVID is a raging, windy thunderstorm, a vaccine is a raincoat. It will keep you mostly warm and dry, but you probably also need an umbrella, a hat, and boots.
The COVID-19 vaccinations were not designed to prevent all infections. They were designed to lower the risk of serious illness, hospitalization, and death. In these goals, they have been successful beyond all reasonable expectations.
Even with variants that were not in circulation before the development of the three vaccines in use in the US, only 3 percent of all people currently hospitalized for COVID are fully vaccinated, and the majority of those patients have underlying circumstances that increase their risk for illness. And 99.5 percent of all COVID deaths in the US are among unvaccinated patients; only 0.5 percent of deaths are among people who got the vaccine.
Here is what this means: If you’re vaccinated for COVID-19, you will probably not get seriously sick, and you almost certainly will not die from the virus. Congratulations, good job!
But the Delta variant has some new habits that demand our attention. It has a faster replication rate, a shorter incubation period, and greater viral shedding than the other variants. The data shows that even vaccinated people can pick up the Delta variant and experience a silent infection, or only mild symptoms. This happens often enough that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) isn’t tracking it anymore. Many of those infections are found incidentally—because the person is tested for some reason other than having symptoms.
However, it looks like the Delta variant is so prolific that vaccinated people can spread it to others. Let me say that again. It is possible for asymptomatic vaccinated people to spread the Delta variant to others.
How often this happens, and what circumstances make it most likely, are facts that have not been determined. But according to at least one study, the viral concentration in the noses of vaccinated people with Delta is similar to the concentration of other variants in infected unvaccinated people.
So, people who come in contact with people infected with Delta, vaccinated or not, are at risk. This includes children who are too young to be vaccinated, and adults who can’t be vaccinated, or can’t access the vaccine, or who have chosen not to be vaccinated. These populations now account for the fastest growing demographics of hospitalized patients with COVID.
Today, the Delta variant is the cause of over 80 percent of all COVID-19 infections in the US; it has crowded out most of the others. And Delta replicates much faster than other variants, especially in the nose—which makes it much easier to transmit, especially in indoor spaces without masks.
And, as data on PASC (post-acute sequelae of COVID, or long COVID) accumulates, we see the possibility of permanent heart and lung damage, and substantial losses in cognitive power and intelligence. So even for those who survive a COVID infection, the risk of long-term consequences is high.
- If you have taken them off, put your masks back on, in all public indoor settings and massage session rooms—especially if you live in an area where positivity rates are high.
- Recommit to social distancing, elevated hygienic practices, and vigilant attention to air filtration and quality.
- If you haven’t done it already, get vaccinated. Do it for yourself, your clients, and your loved ones.
This is a situation we can stop . . . if we use raincoats, umbrellas, hats, and boots. We need all our tools to help us stay safe (and to reduce the risk of more variants emerging) until the storm is over. It can be done, but only if we all work together.
Come on colleagues, let’s make this work.
Ruth Werner is a former massage therapist, a writer, and an NCBTMB-approved provider of continuing education. She wrote A Massage Therapist’s Guide to Pathology (available at BooksofDiscovery.com) now in its seventh edition, which is used in massage schools worldwide.
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“COVID-19 Variant Updates for the United States” by Ruth Werner
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