By Damon Raskin, M.D. | Special to the Palisadian-Post
I thought we were out of the woods when it came to COVID, but now I keep hearing about the delta variant. How worried should I be? I am vaccinated but I have some friends who are electing not to get it yet. When should I be wearing a mask? Should I avoid crowds?
This whole situation reminds me of the great tagline for “Jaws 2,” which stated: “Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water … ” But instead of great white sharks scaring us, it is the virus causing COVID-19.
It was barely a month ago when LA County lifted the mask mandate and everyone took a sigh of relief. Cases in the county and the state as a whole were markedly down, and hospitalizations and deaths were almost negligible. Bars and restaurants were filling up, gyms and airports were packed, and people were beginning to get back a sense of normalcy. Then word came of the highly transmissible delta variant rapidly becoming the dominant strain, leading to a resurgence of cases, especially in those still unvaccinated.
The latest figures as of this writing reveal that 51.6% of California’s population has been fully vaccinated. The COVID-19 vaccines are still extremely effective, even against this new variant, and are still the best way to prevent serious illness, hospitalization and death. However, no vaccine is 100% effective.
An April study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that two out of 417 fully vaccinated people got COVID-19. That amounts to 0.48%. Even in the unlikely event that a fully vaccinated person does get the virus, it is extremely uncommon to get seriously ill. I saw a young twentysomething woman in my office last week who was fully vaccinated two months ago but had several days of nasal congestion and sore throat. She came in to get tested for COVID-19 after losing her sense of smell, a telltale sign. Although she did in fact test positive for COVID-19, her symptoms remained completely mild and resolved within a few days.
If you have friends or family members who are still unvaccinated, the best thing you can do is to try to persuade them to get the shots. There is much disinformation being spread about the vaccines, which may be making this situation much worse. In speaking to my colleagues at a local hospital, there are more young people in the ICU now than ever before, all of whom are unvaccinated. Have your friends speak to their primary care physician about the pros and cons of the vaccine so they can hear the details from a trusted medical source, not just from sources on certain television networks or the internet.
As far as wearing a mask, LA County just reinstated a mandate to wear one while indoors even if you are vaccinated. This comes with some controversy, given that it is not what the CDC guidelines recommend. In addition, federal mandates still require a mask in airports and airplanes. Feel confident that if you are vaccinated, you can still be in crowds, especially if they are outdoors. Hopefully, this surge will be short lived, and this may act a reminder that we all need to do our part and get vaccinated, even younger healthy people. This is not only for their own health, but for those who for a variety of reasons are not eligible to get the vaccine.
Then and only then can we all get back in the water without fear.
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