OP-ED: You’re Vaccinated – Delta Still Changes the GameWashCo Dems op-ed article

By Emily Gardner, Washington County Democrats PCP

A month ago, the Delta variant accounted for just over 30 percent of new cases. On July 3, it crossed the 50 percent threshold to become the dominant variant in the U.S. Today Delta accounts for 83% of all new cases in the U.S. That’s how fast Delta has “taken over”, and why we need to reevaluate everything we think we know

Here are the rules of the game as we know them (based on pre-Delta numbers), and how Delta might change them:

  1. The vaccines (on average) are 90% effective at reducing the risk of severe disease or death once you have caught Covid 19. This seems to be still the case with Delta. Vaccines still prevent death and hospitalization most of the time. HOWEVER…
  2. New data shows that the vaccines (on average) only reduce the risk of infection by three-fold now that the Delta variant — which is more contagious — is dominant.
  3. Finally, and this is the big problem, Delta can and does spread from the vaccinated to other people who are vaccinated and the unvaccinated. This was not the case prior to Delta.

Let’s dive into that third bullet further. The CDC talks about Covid 19 originally as being as transmissible as the common cold also known as a RO of 3, this means 2-3 infections per person with Covid 19. The Delta variant is as transmissible as chickenpox or measles with an RO of 9, this means 8-9 infections on average happening from one person with the Delta variant of Covid 19.

In Washington County, our highest point was in Dec 2020. That month we had 237 average cases per day. Jan 2021 averaged 191 cases per day. Things finally improved in Feb 2021 as people got vaccinated. And bottomed out in the beginning of July with an average of only 11 cases per day. But the average has been rising ever since, and today the average is 50 cases per day with earlier this week peaking at 95 cases in one day.

Although we say Oregon is over 70% vaccinated, that number isn’t the total population, as it doesn’t include those that can’t get vaccinated. Compared to the total population, Oregon is 55.8% vaccinated and Washington county is 65.5% vaccinated (these numbers include people who have started the vaccination process by receiving at least their first shot).

People who get Covid 19 Delta (whether vaccinated or not) are likely to spread it to others, unless protective measures are taken, and although many of these measures are well known to us at this time, some need to be more stringent than they were, to successfully thwart transmission of Delta. Let’s underscore that, based on what we know about Delta, the transmission rate for fully vaccinated people is the same as for unvaccinated people. However, vaccinated people will have milder symptoms and even without symptoms you could have and spread Covid 19. Among the vaccinated, Delta frequently shows as a light cough.

The best preventive measures can be found on the CDC website, which includes social distancing and wearing a tight-fitting mask over your nose and mouth that passes the “Spray bottle test” (detailed below).

If you think growing from 11 to 50 on average isn’t alarming (I’d urge you to look at what Rosenthal increases look like in the beginning), keep in mind it is summer and Covid is at its weakest. It will only become more pronounced and stronger as we return to the colder months. ACs filter air, heaters may not, and yet we are at as many cases per day now as we were at the end of Oct. 2020, and we didn’t have vaccines then. I feel that we are heading for another small peak in August but will see a sharp incline starting Oct. this year. And as infections rise, it gets more chances for mutations. We could very well see a Covid variation that is more lethal, or that vaccines can’t protect against.

My advice is to wear a mask at all times when you are out, limit the people you have contact with, and start forming a Pod/Bubble again. I think we should, although it may be hard, not attend/hold in-person events of more than 10 people. If you are to meet with people outside your household try and do it outside or where there is lots of air ventilation and flow. Insist on only meeting with others who wear masks, and try to limit your exposure to unvaccinated and or unmasked people, as you could be a carrier and infect those who medically can not receive a vaccine.

I urge you to set boundaries on who you are willing to interact with and make those around you aware of how important it is, to not just your health and theirs, but to public health, to get vaccinated… even after being vaccinated and to still wear a mask.

*** The instructions for the Spray Bottle test are:
First fill a spray bottle with clean tap water, then find a mirror, hold the mask about 3-four inches from the mirror, with the bottle set on spray (not stream), hold the bottle no more than 1in away from the mask, spray though the mask at the mirror twice, slightly move each time so as not to spray the same exact place twice. Lastly inspect the mirror, if the mirror is mostly dry with only a few small drops of water then the mask is made from suitable material, otherwise the mask will not be efficient against the spread of Covid 19 and Delta.

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