THE DOCTOR IS IN -- That there's a new Delta Variant of the COVID-19 virus which is more contagious and aggressive than before is not new news.
That more people are getting COVID-19 (including the vaccinated) is, indeed, new news. But...ARE the ICU's filling up, and people dying?
The terrible, tragic answer is...YES. News about this virus remains conflicting, but overall THESE are the main overarching considerations of today's COVID-19/Delta Variant World:
1) In Republican Idaho, where freedom, free choice, and the economy are all cherished by the citizenry, and where countless Californians and other Americans have fled from more socialist regions of the U.S., even young people--predominantly the unvaccinated--are filling up ICU beds and hospital wards .
2) Both the unvaccinated and vaccinated get similar amounts of viral loads of the Delta Variant of COVID-19. Yet it while it certain the vaccinated ARE giving it to others, and while it is less certain that standard loop masks will prevent exposure/spread of this new variant of COVID-19, what IS certain is that the unvaccinated ARE getting worse cases of the virus...
...and are also more likely to die from it.
3) This new Delta Variant of COVID-19 spreads faster than chickenpox, but the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines (despite only having Emergency Use Authorization from FDA) are the best chances ANYONE has against this new variant (a virus which, by the way, does not care how tired we are of masking and economic/cultural devastation due to the pandemic).
4) This new virus also makes people more sick than previous variants of COVID-19. Yet a third dose of the Pfizer (and/or Moderna vaccine) is NOT yet approved by the FDA for Emergency Use Authorization, despite evidence to the contrary, and a consideration for which portion of the population needs a booster has no consensus at this time...no matter how much that consensus is needed.
But for those of us who are fanboys/fangirls of the "experts", and for those of us who just loooooooooooooooove wearing masks, and for those of us who think that vaccinations are more dangerous than the COVID-19 virus...
...you're forcing your beliefs on others, and ignoring how YOUR statements and actions are negatively impacting others. In short, you're just tearing us apart.
To the so-called "experts" and "ruling classes" who think--nay, they KNOW--they're smarter than the rest of us:
1) Is President Biden uniting us as a nation like he said he would--particularly since the pandemic is what brought him into office? Is his alienation of the plurality of Americans who were Trump voters helping or hurting the efforts needed for us to unite as a nation to physically and economically heal the United States?
2) Does President Biden want to continue to smack around former President Trump (and, by extension, the tens of millions who voted for him) enough to ignore that:
- The two vaccines were promoted and expedited by Trump, and to stop making these "Trump Vaccines" the "Biden Vaccines"?
- Most of those NOT getting vaccines aren't "Trumpers" but those who are even doing most the dying--Latino and Black Americans who are primarily Democrats--so that "blame Trump and his Nazi/White Supremacist supporters" should be stopped to bring all Americans on board the "vaccination train"?
- Why, YES, it is almost certain that China accidentally let this horrible virus loose from a lab in/near Wuhan, China, just as Trump, former Secretary of State Pompeo, and all others watching China proclaimed all along?
3) Is flip-flopping media addict Anthony "Look at me!" Fauci helping or hurting the nation? If he was to remain employed based on how much he's convinced those avoiding masking, social distancing, and vaccination to change their minds, what would his future be as the "expert-in-chief"?
Despite those who cling to Fauci's every word, is Fauci the best guy we can get to unite the nation? Or do we somehow revive the corpse of C. Everett Koop who once DID unite the nation, and ask his reincarnated spirit to better explain things to us all from a medical perspective?
4) Why the heck ISN'T the FDA granting full approval of the medically necessary Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, instead of just Emergency Use Authorization? That lack of approval is both confusing and confounding, and both infuriating and incensing, to too many Americans who are therefore not getting the vaccine.
5) Why the heck ISN'T the FDA approving (or at least tentatively supporting with a new Emergency Use Authorization) booster shots to the elderly, the immunocompromised, and those at highest risk for COVID-19 (even if vaccinated).
And then there are the "Maskers Forever"...we need masks again...but we need the FACTS, and NOT your collective outbursts of "Ahhhh! Ahhhhhhhhh! AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!" primal scream therapy, to best bring us together during a time when...YES...we DO need to mask up again. You "Maskers Forever", are also tearing us apart.
1) Masking isn't virtuous, or patriotic, or wonderful. It's hellish, violating, and awful to mask up for as long as we've been doing...but now it's also NECESSARY. The virus is all over the noses, oral mucosae, and bodies of the vaccinated as well as the non-vaccinated, and the risk of spread is virtually the same as in the spring of 2020...or even MORE contagious than before.
2) The question of whether loop or even cloth masks are good enough to slow down the spread of the Delta Variant of COVID-19 must be asked. It's possible that NOW, at the lousiest time possible, we might need N-95 masks to get the job done in ways that other masks can't do anymore.
3) Treating school kids like the elderly is just DUMB, and NOT "following the science". Hence the new efforts to mask our middle-school and high-school age kids and test them every week (even if they're vaccinated) adds more fuel to the fire of "what's the benefit of vaccination, and all the side effects that go along with vaccination, if everything will stay the same?"
Finally, there are the "Anti-Vaxxers". YOU folks are no less guilty of tearing us apart than the so-called "Experts" and all the "Chicken Littles" and "Big Brother Types".
1) Arguably, there's a logic to the "I won't stop you from being vaccinated, but don't force me to be vaccinated". But what do you say to those vaccinated who are now being asked to mask up anyway indoors just to save YOU from getting sick and dying?
2) Certainly, there's a logic to the "they're demonizing us, and forcing us to get vaccinated!" argument, and there's a logic to the "yes, people are getting sick, but are they filling up ICU's and dying?" argument. But what if ICU beds and death rates ARE going up...for reals?
Well, ICU bed and death rates ARE going up...for reals.
3) Is your employer obligated to keep you on the payroll if you don't get vaccinated, and there is a legitimate concern that you will spread the hyper-contagious Delta Variant (which may be more contagious than the 1918 Spanish Flu/H1N1 Pandemic Virus) to your customers.
Probably not. Particularly in the health care profession, grocery stores, and any other venue where large numbers of individuals will be exposed to employees, and where wearing a mask might not be enough to stop the spread of the COVID-19 Delta Variant.
4) And while "vaccine passports" go against most of our nation's culture and history of human rights and freedom of choice, will frightened businesses, hospital systems, airlines, cruise ships, or even states go ahead and "do what it takes" to protect their customers, clients, and/or constituents?
They probably will. Particularly since there are NO better options than the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to protect from severe COVID-19 syndromes that are downright life-threatening and fatal to too many who get the virus.
Hence we must push to get large numbers of the elderly vaccinated. We need to stop demonizing one political party or group of people about the relatively-low rates of vaccination.
It's important to consider booster shots for the elderly, immunocompromised, and for health care workers. It's important to let the word out that people ARE dying in the ICU's, and that virtually EVERYONE dying is NOT vaccinated.
And there is a critical need to be frank about which type of mask will specifically protect against the new Delta Variant (as in, it's an N-95 or you're wasting your time).
Because we need to come together, and the infighting and competing reports are just confusing us at a time when we need to coalesce around basic truths, and basic tactics, and basic paradigms that will get us through the pandemic in ways we need now more than ever.
(Kenneth S. Alpern, M.D, is a dermatologist who has served in clinics in Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties, and is a proud husband and father to two cherished children and a wonderful wife. He was termed out of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC) twice after two stints as a Board member for 8-9 years and is also a Board member of the Westside Village Homeowners Association. He previously co-chaired the MVCC Outreach, Planning, and Transportation/Infrastructure Committees. He was previously co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee, the grassroots Friends of the Green Line (which focused on a Green Line/LAX connection), and the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at [email protected]. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Dr. Alpern.) Image: Drew Dzwonkowski / New York Daily News.