Lately, I have been following the stories about resurgent COVID-19 outbreaks in various parts of the country, driven primarily by the highly contagious delta variant.
It has me worried on several fronts, and you should be worried too. If you are unvaccinated, you should be especially concerned, because it is the unvaccinated who are paying the price right now.
Everyone wants to get back to normal, but acting like everything was normal is a big reason why we haven’t returned to normal. And now, things look to get much, much worse.
Right now, we have three main tools to combat COVID-19: vaccines, masks, and staying at home.
The best option so far is the vaccine, but nationally just under half of the population has been vaccinated. It is far too low for herd immunity.
Some people are unable to get vaccinated because of health issues. These people have to rely us to get vaccinated to create herd immunity, and so far we have let them down. The idea of herd immunity is to protect those who cannot be vaccinated, not to protect those who refuse to be.
Then there are children under 12. Through the first part of the pandemic, young children seemed to be largely unaffected. That seems to be changing with the delta variant. COVID-19 cases have helped fill up the Children’s Mercy Hospital in the Kansas City area. Rotovirus is the other primary culprit now, and masks help stop the spread of that virus, too.
The third tool is to stop getting together. Stay home, and avoid crowds – especially indoors, where the virus is at its most dangerous. Nobody wants to do that, however.
People in a free country have choices, but we tend to ignore that our choices have consequences. The consequences of choosing to remain unvaccinated are become life-and-death serious. And those consequences will affect more than just the people making that choice.
Across the country, it is almost exclusively unvaccinated patients who are in critical care units and who are dying preventable deaths. A doctor in Alabama made news last week as she shared her experience treating unvaccinated patients. She noted that many of these patients are young adults – the adults who were least impacted early in the pandemic.
“One of the last things they do before they’re intubated is beg me for the vaccine. I hold their hand tell them I’m sorry, but it’s too late,” she wrote on Facebook.
Elsewhere, cities, counties and states are looking at reinstating mask mandates. Even those who are vaccinated are being encouraged to wear masks in crowded, indoor places.
I think we will see mask mandates before we see our communities shut down as they did in the spring of 2020. I also think things are going to get much worse this fall, and the parts of the country that react the slowest will be hit the hardest.
I’m trying really hard to not be pessimistic. I consider myself a hopeful pragmatist who is not much for ideology, left or right. But what I see in our near future is thousands of Americans essentially self-selecting themselves out of the population by choosing to remain unvaccinated.
That choice will ripple like a rock tossed in a pond. Surviving family members and friends will carry the devastation of that loss. There be economic impacts; even if we don’t see businesses close, there will be impacts as people stay home. Without quick changes, schools may face major problems in a few weeks.
By acting normal, we are simply pushing normal further away. We are not yet through this pandemic.
If you haven’t been vaccinated yet, there is still time. It’s free, and it’s easy. The dangers of COVID-19 itself are far, far worse than any potential vaccine side effects. Remember, once devastating diseases like smallpox and polio were eradicated because of wide acceptance of vaccines.
Please, don’t wait to make a choice, because at some point, you may no longer have a choice to make.
Travis Mounts is managing editor of Times-Sentinel Newspapers based in Cheney, and a past president of the Kansas Press Association.