calendar June 18, 2021 in Public Health

The Pandemic Is Not Yet Over

Update: June 18, 2021

Infectious disease specialist Dr. Tim Babinchak tells us that he has not significantly changed the advice he gave to us last month. He wrote in an email today:

‟Most of my recommendations remain the same as vaccination progress appears to be stalling and we are seeing the more contagious Delta variant becoming dominant in Pennsylvania (and the rest of the country).  That leaves the unvaccinated at heightened risk.  For the most part, anything taking place outdoors doesn’t require masks.  However, if indoors and not vaccinated, those individuals should still be masked and social distanced.”

In the latest Osterholm Update podcast, Dr. Michael Osterholm lays out some possibilities for the coming months. (You can listen here; the relevant discussion begins at 19:00.) Some quick takeaways:

  • Most of the US is experiencing a marked decline in cases
  • The so-called Delta variant, which originated in India, increased from 6% of US cases to 10% in the last week. It is both more infectious and causes more serious disease than previous variants.
  • Persons who are not vaccinated (and those who are immunosuppressed even if vaccinated) are at risk from these more virulent variants.
  • While we do not know how this will play out, it is possible that some local areas or regions will experience outbreaks.
  • This risk continues until sufficient vaccines and treatment reach the rest of the world.

A recent article in The Atlantic observes that with the May CDC announcement that vaccinated people do not need masks in most circumstances, official message has moved from protect everyone, especially the vulnerable, to a more individualistic tone. As CDC Director Rochelle Walinsky tweeted, “Your health is in your hands.” Individuals, businesses, and churches are being asked to determine how much risk is acceptable — and to whom. Access to vaccines has improved, and some people choose not to partake, but there are communities — people with low access to health care and/or time off for medical needs, and particularly communities of color — that involuntarily assume greater risk. As church, we must think about who we put at risk through our choices.

As Bishop Davenport has said throughout the pandemic: Stay safe, and make doing no harm your top priority.