In recent months, it began to look as life was returning to normal in the U.S. As more individuals took to pharmacies, grocery stores, and other vaccination sites to get their doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, states began lifting their outdoor and indoor mask mandates, venues began opening again, and music festivals began releasing their 2021 lineups. However, as we move into August and our “normal return” to school gets closer, uncertainty begins to rise again.
This uncertainty comes from worries about the delta variant, which is rumored to be “as contagious as chickenpox.” Since January, COVID-19 case numbers in the United States had been declining exponentially. However, this began to change between June and July. In June, there was an average of 12,842 cases per day, but in July, there was an average of 44,901 new cases each day. This is a nearly 30% increase in new COVID-19 cases.
This rise in case numbers is being caused largely by the delta variant of the coronavirus, which was first discovered in India in late 2020. By April of 2021, India’s cries were similar to those of the U.S a year earlier: limited medical oxygen, ventilators, medicines, and hospital beds. However, by June, India saw massive declines in its case numbers due to strict pandemic restrictions and caution among the general public, and the country has now lifted many of those restrictions now that there has been a three month low in cases numbers. Although India seems to be recovering well from the Delta variant, this doesn’t appear to be the case in the countries that the variant has spread to.
After the explosion of cases in India in April 2021, the Delta variant became the cause of 90% of cases in the United Kingdom in June 2021, and as of late July, the CDC has announced that the Delta variant is responsible for 83% of COVID-19 cases in the U.S.
In the United States, approximately 165 million people, or about 50.2% of the U.S. population, are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. However, with increasing worries about “breakthrough cases” (fully vaccinated people contracting Covid) and uncertainty about how transmissible the Delta variant is, many people are questioning the ability of the COVID-19 vaccine. However, as COVID-19 case numbers increase rapidly, vaccination still seems to be our strongest defense.
Out of the 165 million people in America that have been fully vaccinated, at least 125,000 of them have tested positive for COVID-19. While this appears to be a lot of people, it is only 0.8 percent of the fully vaccinated population. Below are two graphs from the Mayo Clinic that illustrate the utility of the COVID-19 vaccine. The first shows the percentage of each state population that is fully vaccinated, and the second shows the average daily COVID-19 cases per 1,000 people as of August 1.
Some clear trends are seen when comparing these graphs. One apparent connection is the array of light green and dark red in the southeastern areas of the United States. This illustrates that the smaller percentage of the population that is fully vaccinated, the higher the percentage of the population contracts COVID-19. The inverse of this trend also appears to be true. The Northeast as a whole has a sizable percentage of their population vaccinated against COVID-19, and this is also the region with the most orange in the second graph. You may have seen misleading headlines about how vaccinated people can spread COVID-19 just as easily as unvaccinated people, but the evidence is clear: getting vaccinated helps prevent the spread of COVID-19, even with the delta variant. This is because even though vaccinated people can still contract and spread COVID-19, they are much less likely to get the virus in the first place.
Although getting vaccinated helps prevent the spread of COVID-19, that doesn’t mean that vaccinated people have nothing to worry about. The ability to spread the virus should not be taken lightly, and we must continue doing our part to lower new case numbers. As of July 27, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has now recommended that fully vaccinated individuals “wear a mask indoors in public if you are in an area of substantial or high transmission.” To find out if you live in a county considered to be substantial or high risk, click here.
Circulating the news right now are questions over whether we will be going back into another COVID-19-19 lockdown. This doesn’t seem to be the case for right now, but we could be heading in that direction in a few months. Although new cases are growing in nearly every state, not many states are tightening restrictions. Instead, some states are simply making recommendations that citizens may or may not follow. The issue with this is that the American public appears to be terrible at making individual decisions that benefit the collective. If people do not begin to wear masks and get vaccinated, case numbers are guaranteed to continue to increase and inevitably create another huge wave of COVID-19 cases.