Is Your Sense Of Pandemic Optimism Taking A Hit?

"Re-Opening" by Nancy Ohanian

I'm double vaccinated but...

  • I still always wear a mask in public places

  • I eat outdoors or near an open door in restaurants

  • I don't let anyone in my home who isn't vaccinated

  • No airplanes or trips for me

  • I'm thinking of wearing one-use gloves again

Florida's attorney general, Ashley Moody, is double vaccinated and was just diagnosed with COVID. First we were told it was 99 point something percent safe if you're vaccinated. Then it was 97%, 96%, 86%... I'm sure it's safer, but it sure isn't bulletproof. Last month my doctor told me a third shot would be a very good idea. Yesterday, award-winning medical science reporter Apoorva Mandavilli, writing for the NY Times, took a shot at explaining why vaccinated people are getting 'breakthrough' infections.

This isn't good: "As the Delta variant surges across the nation, reports of infections in vaccinated people have become increasingly frequent-- including, most recently, among at least six Texas Democrats, a White House aide and an aide to Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The highly contagious variant, combined with a lagging vaccination campaign and the near absence of preventive restrictions, is fueling a rapid rise in cases in all states, and hospitalizations in nearly all of them. It now accounts for about 83 percent of infections diagnosed in the United States. But as worrying as the trend may seem, breakthrough infections-- those occurring in vaccinated people-- are still relatively uncommon, experts said, and those that cause serious illness, hospitalization or death even more so. More than 97 percent of people hospitalized for Covid-19 are unvaccinated."

Are they, I just heard on local radio that 80% of L.A. County's hospitalizations (or was it new cases?) are people who haven't been vaccinated. I appreciate that vaccines prevent severe illness-- or that that's what we're being told-- but I have to wonder if that's going to start slipping too.

Still, vaccinated people can come down with infections, overwhelmingly asymptomatic or mild. That may come as a surprise to many vaccinated Americans, who often assume that they are completely shielded from the virus. And breakthrough infections raise the possibility, as yet unresolved, that vaccinated people may spread the virus to others.
Given the upwelling of virus across much of the country, some scientists say it is time for vaccinated people to consider wearing masks indoors and in crowded spaces like shopping malls or concert halls-- a recommendation that goes beyond current guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recommends masking only for unvaccinated people.
The agency does not plan to change its guidelines unless there is a significant change in the science, said a federal official speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the matter.
The agency’s guidance already gives local leaders latitude to adjust their policies based on rates of transmission in their communities, he added. Citing the rise of the Delta variant, health officials in several California jurisdictions are already urging a return to indoor masking; Los Angeles County is requiring it.
“Seatbelts reduce risk, but we still need to drive carefully,” said Dr. Scott Dryden-Peterson, an infectious disease physician and epidemiologist at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston. “We’re still trying to figure out what is ‘drive carefully’ in the Delta era, and what we should be doing.”
The uncertainty about Delta results in part from how it differs from previous versions of the coronavirus. Although its mode of transmission is the same-- it is inhaled, usually in indoor spaces-- Delta is thought to be about twice as contagious as the original virus.
Significantly, early evidence also suggests that people infected with the Delta variant may carry roughly a thousandfold more virus than those infected with the original virus. While that does not seem to mean that they get sicker, it does probably mean that they are more contagious and for longer.
Dose also matters: A vaccinated person exposed to a low dose of the coronavirus may never become infected, or not noticeably so. A vaccinated person exposed to extremely high viral loads of the Delta variant is more likely to find his or her immune defenses overwhelmed.
The problem grows worse as community transmission rates rise, because exposures in dose and number will increase. Vaccination rates in the country have stalled, with less than half of Americans fully immunized, giving the virus plenty of room to spread.
Unvaccinated people “are not, for the most part, taking precautions, and that’s what’s driving it for everybody,” said Dr. Eric J. Rubin, the editor in chief of the New England Journal of Medicine. “We’re all susceptible to whatever anyone’s behavior is in this epidemic.”
...For the average vaccinated person, a breakthrough infection is likely to be inconsequential, causing few to no symptoms. But there is concern among scientists that a few vaccinated people who become infected may go on to develop long Covid, a poorly understood constellation of symptoms that persists after the active infection is resolved.
Much has been made of Delta’s ability to sidestep immune defenses. In fact, all of the existing vaccines seem able to prevent serious illness and death from the variant. In laboratory studies, Delta actually has proved to be a milder threat than Beta, the variant first identified in South Africa.
Whether a vaccinated person ever becomes infected may depend on how high antibodies spiked after vaccination, how potent those antibodies are against the variant, and whether the level of antibodies in the person’s blood has waned since immunization.
In any case, immune defenses primed by the vaccines should recognize the virus soon after infection and destroy it before significant damage occurs.
“That is what explains why people do get infected and why people don’t get seriously ill,” said Michel C. Nussenzweig, an immunologist at Rockefeller University in New York. “It’s nearly unavoidable, unless you’re going to give people very frequent boosters.”
There is limited evidence beyond anecdotal reports to indicate whether breakthrough infections with the Delta variant are more common or more likely to fan out to other people. The C.D.C. has recorded about 5,500 hospitalizations and deaths in vaccinated people, but it is not tracking milder breakthrough infections.
...Health officials should also help the public understand that vaccines are doing what they are supposed to-- preventing people from getting seriously ill, said Kristen Panthagani, a geneticist at Baylor College of Medicine who runs a blog explaining complex scientific concepts.
“Vaccine efficacy isn’t 100 percent-- it never is,” she said. “We shouldn’t expect Covid vaccines to be perfect, either. That’s too high an expectation.”

The U.S. was always #1 in new cases and then we dropped and dropped and dropped. Now Florida has pushed us back into the #1 spot for the first time in at least a month. Only 9 countries had an over 20,000 day yesterday:

  • USA- 61,651

  • Brazil- 49,603

  • Indonesia- 49,509

  • U.K.- 39,906

  • India- 34,865

  • Spain- 29,535

  • Russia- 24,471

  • France- 21,909

  • Iran- 20,313

Other countries are starting to require vaccine passports of people who want to work and take part in normal society. It would be hard to imagine controversy-adverse Biden having the guts to do that until the U.S. death toll goes from 365 yesterday to... well, a few thousand a day again?