A couple of things caught my attention this week relating to the seemingly ever changing myriad of Covid-19 restrictions. First, the French Parliament passed a law that will require a health pass for access to restaurants, bars, trains and planes from the beginning of August. (In France, all venues accommodating more than 50 people already require proof of vaccination or a recent negative Covid-19 test, including museums, cinemas and swimming pools.) Second, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revised its guidance on wearing masks and now the agency recommends that some fully vaccinated people wear masks indoors if they live in areas with significant or high spread.
Those are only two of many examples of increased Covid-19 restrictions going into effect around the globe. The Delta Variant of SARS-CoV-2 is more transmissible and can cause worse health outcomes than other variants. Because Delta is more transmissible, it is fast becoming the dominant variant wherever it appears.
Many people have had enough of the restrictions health experts have recommend to control the virus. They don’t like masks, want to be able to gather in large groups, and some see no need to get vaccinated. I can understand it because I feel the same way, except I got vaccinated at my earliest opportunity.
What some fail to realize is a virus don’t care now tired, frustrated, or vaccine hesitant anyone is. SARS-CoV-2 does what every virus does. It spreads, sickens, kills, and given time, mutates into new strains. The virus and the disease it causes, Covid-19, are as relentless as the Terminator. SARS-CoV-2 is even tougher than the Terminator because it is an invisible threat.
In the first Terminator movie, Sarah Connor is the target of the Terminator. She is naturally skeptical when Kyle Reese informs her that a cyborg from the future has been sent back in time to kill her to prevent the birth of her son. John Connor will lead the fight against the cyborgs in the future. Reese lays down the law in no uncertain terms in this 21-second plea:
Listen, and understand. That terminator is out there. It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.
SARS-CoV-2 is much the same way. No matter how much we would prefer it to be otherwise, it won’t stop until we make it stop and lives are at stake. In the words of Bill Murray in this 3-second clip from the comedy Stripes: “That’s the fact, Jack!”
But unlike Reese and Connor in Terminator, we have defenses that will stop the virus in its tracks. Wearing masks, avoiding crowds, washing hands, and limiting travel greatly reduce the ability of the virus to spread. If we do get infected, being vaccinated ahead of the infection provides much protection from the most serious effects of Covid-19 disease. The primary question in the battle of man vs the virus is does man have the collective will power to do what it takes to defeat the virus with minimal casualties.
The CDC’s revised rules suggesting that vaccinated people wear masks stems from a recent study that showed that vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals who are infected with the Delta strain carry the same amount of viral load as unvaccinated individuals (meaning vaccinated people are equally capable of infecting others) and Delta infections can put vaccinated people in the hospital.
Rather than paraphrase, here is the most important portion of the study’s findings:
During July 2021, 469 cases of COVID-19 associated with multiple summer events and large public gatherings in a town in Barnstable County, Massachusetts, were identified among Massachusetts residents; vaccination coverage among eligible Massachusetts residents was 69%. Approximately three quarters (346; 74%) of cases occurred in fully vaccinated persons (those who had completed a 2-dose course of mRNA vaccine [Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna] or had received a single dose of Janssen [Johnson & Johnson] vaccine ≥14 days before exposure). Genomic sequencing of specimens from 133 patients identified the B.1.617.2 (Delta) variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in 119 (89%) and the Delta AY.3 sublineage in one (1%). Overall, 274 (79%) vaccinated patients with breakthrough infection were symptomatic. Among five COVID-19 patients who were hospitalized, four were fully vaccinated; no deaths were reported.
Personally, the most significant finding was that the SARS-CoV-2 Delta strain that is circulating widely can cause symptomatic infections in vaccinated people that can result in hospitalizations.
About 15 years ago I had a bout of bronchitis that laid me low for several days. I didn’t have a regular primary care physician at the time and went to a doctor I picked from my health plan list, the nurse didn’t even bother to take my temperature and the doctor didn’t insist on it. That resulted in an initial diagnosis of a bad allergy attack. You might guess my suspicions for that failure. I had to go back a couple of days later and they did take my temperature revealing a high fever. I got a prescription for antibiotics and started feeling better immediately.
Even though I didn’t go to the hospital, bronchitis kicked my butt. I don’t mind telling you that I seriously don’t want to feel that way again much less wind up in the hospital. Therefore, I will happily wear a mask indoors, and also maybe outdoors in some situations, to protect myself and others.
As stated previously, I definitely understand the feelings of those who are fed up with restrictions to control SARS-CoV-2 and Covid-19 because I have those feelings, too. I don’t understand why people are willing to risk their health by not getting vaccinated. And while wearing a mask is not preferred, doing that and taking the other recommended precautions is a small price I’m willing to pay to protect myself and others. The sooner people understand we are up against ‘the terminator’, the sooner we can defeat the virus and the more of us that will be around to celebrate.
Do we have the will to do it? What would it take to get enough people to get onboard?