Delta Variant

More reminders that the pandemic is not over.

As the global death toll continues to rise, so do concerns over the health variant of Covid-19.

However, the NY Post continues an odd, ongoing desire by right-leaning media to downplay the whole thing in an editorial entitled Don’t buy the hysteria: The Delta variant is actually less dangerous.

Now, the piece itself points out that yes, the delta variant is more contagious and it encourages vaccination. Indeed, it states “The only rational response is to work harder to get the holdouts jabbed.”

But if the goal is to get those folks jabbed, headlines that talk about “hysteria” over the data variant are the wrong way to go.

Indeed, the reason they say that this variant is “less dangerous” is not about the virus, but about vaccinations:

The seven-day average of new UK cases is above 25,000, the highest since late January, when the weekly average had just dropped from a peak of 50,000. But only 2,000 COVID cases are hospitalized, vs. nearly 40,000 in January. Daily deaths average under 20, vs. more than 1,000 in January.

Similarly: Israel, despite a spike in Delta cases, is seeing deaths in the single digits over the last month.

But, of course, the UK and Israel are two of the most vaccinated countries in the world.

Indeed, as the piece notes, the problem in the US is lack of vaccinations:

US cases are rising mainly in areas lax with the vax. States with below-average jab rates have triple the number of new cases compared with above-average states. Arkansas has five times the national average of new cases — because not even 35 percent of its residents are fully vaccinated, vs. nearly 60 percent nationwide.

And while Delta caused a 10 percent rise in daily US cases late last month, COVID hospital admissions actually dropped.

But the issue is not lack of danger, it is lack of vaccinations. We are almost certainly going to see variable hospitalization and death rates based on what regions are vaccinated and which are not.

The bottom line is: the headline should not be suggesting that the delta variant is less dangerous but, rather, it should be suggesting as boldly as possible that vaccinations combat the virus, including the delta variant. This is especially true in a world wherein many people just read headlines.

Indeed, as WaPo reports: New study on delta variant reveals importance of receiving both vaccine shots, highlights challenges posed by mutations.

A peer-reviewed report from scientists in France, published Thursday in the journal Nature, found that the delta variant has mutations that allow it to evade some of the neutralizing antibodies produced by vaccines or by a natural infection. A single shot of a two-dose vaccine “barely” offers any protection, researchers reported.

But the experiments found that fully vaccinated people — with the recommended regimen of two shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech or AstraZeneca vaccine — should retain significant protection against the delta variant. That echoes another report written by a collaboration of scientists in the United States and published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

It is worth noting that the issue is not that the delta variant is worse, in terms of illness, but that it is more contagious:

“There’s no good evidence that this variant causes more serious disease,” Offit said. But he expressed concerns that the large number of people who are unvaccinated — including, because they are not yet eligible, children under 12 — could fuel a winter wave of infections.

“It’s a winter virus. I think it’s going to surge this winter,” he said. “We have a lot of people in America who are not vaccinated, and they are going to be fertile ground for this virus.”

On that topic, NPR reports: The Delta Variant Isn’t Just Hyper-Contagious. It Also Grows More Rapidly Inside You.

After months of data collection, scientists agree: The delta variant is the most contagious version of the coronavirus worldwide. It spreads about 225% faster than the original version of the virus, and it’s currently dominating the outbreak in the United States.

A new study, published online Wednesday, sheds light on why. It finds that the variant grows more rapidly inside people’s respiratory tracts and to much higher levels, researchers at the Guangdong Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported.

On average, people infected with the delta variant had about 1,000 times more copies of the virus in their respiratory tracts than those infected with the original strain of the coronavirus, the study reported.

So, you know, get the shot.

It is reasonable to be concerned that we in the US will see a surge in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths as we head into the fall given the lack of vaccinations in large parts of the country, including my own.

From a purely anecdotal level in the last week, a family member (vaccinated, thankfully) was exposed to an infected co-worker (of which there ended up being at least four cases at their place of employment) and two of my co-workers shared stories of either family or friends who have contracted the virus (folks who had been anti-vax). This is after going about two months without hearing any personal stories of infections.

FWIW, I sincerely doubt we will find ourselves in lockdown again. I could see a circumstance wherein masks in public might be a good idea again, but if anyone is worried about the virus being over-hyped they need to emphasize the importance of getting vaccinated.

FILED UNDER: COVID-19, Health
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. Stormy Dragon says:

    Delta Variant is so last month, all the cool anti-vaxxers are into the Lambda Variant now:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SARS-CoV-2_Lambda_variant

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  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    FWIW, I sincerely doubt we will find ourselves in lockdown again.

    No we won’t, especially not as long as it’s just killing republican voters.

    Bill Grueskin
    @BGrueskin

    Given Missouri’s rapid COVID spread and ventilator shortage, you might think the governor wouldn’t scare-monger rumors that the US government is forcing people to get vaccinated.

    Governor Mike Parson
    @GovParsonMO
    · Jul 7
    I have directed our health department to let the federal government know that sending government employees or agents door-to-door to compel vaccination would NOT be an effective OR a welcome strategy in Missouri!

    Bill Grueskin
    @BGrueskin

    Seems like the governor of Missouri might want to look at this map and come up with a better vaccination strategy

    Trump Country Rejects Vaccines Despite Growing Delta Threat (Bloomberg link)

    Nobody cares less about republican voters than Republican politicians.

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  3. charon says:

    It is worth noting that the issue is not that the delta variant is worse, in terms of illness, but that it is more contagious:

    The Delta Variant Isn’t Just Hyper-Contagious. It Also Grows More Rapidly Inside You

    Perhaps I am just stupid, but I am having a hard time reconciling that the virus that grows more rapidly is not also more dangerous, more likely to cause severe symptoms.

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  4. @charon: My understanding, which is, granted, a lay person’s on this, is that the actual infection is not more dangerous in terms of symptoms nor the likelihood of death. In that sense, it is not more dangerous. Granted, an increased chance of getting it makes it more dangerous in that sense.

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  5. David S. says:

    @charon: It’s a higher infection rate but a lower morbidity rate. “Dangerous” is a word without scientific meaning, so people can throw lots of adverbs at it without being incorrect.

    A lower morbidity rate doesn’t actually mean it’s less dangerous, for instance. It means it’s less likely to kill you. And it’s not even clear to me if it’s less likely simply because we’re more prepared for it now (after a year and a half of testing procedures and treatments to handle it) or because it’s something intrinsic to the virus itself.

    The bottom line is still “pls get vaccinated” and the details are irrelevant for anyone who’s not trying to be an epidemiologist.

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  6. de stijl says:

    A new bug could hit us tomorrow that makes Covid look like the sniffles or 1918 look like a bad cold.

    Has happened before. Will happen again.

    As I type this we are having a major hailstorm here. Half golf ball sized. It happens every few years.

    Hail can wipe a year’s worth of crops for farmers. They all carry insurance just for that.

    The next epidemic might be Black Death bad or worse. We cannot predict.

    Eventually a big comet or meteor will intercept our path around the sun. If we develop the way we are we might be able to nudge it off course enough if we see it soon enough. Before then we will have a month to contemplate on our lives and re-connect before lights out.

    Hopefully, we won’t nuke ourselves into extinction. That is our choice. Or ignore climate change.

    Celestial chunks intercepting our orbit and mutating viruses are an existential threat. As are our nuclear bombs. Global warming would pinch us hard but probably not to ELE. Massive volcanic eruptions could do it too.

    I’m scaring myself. Stop now.

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  7. Kathy says:

    Delta is less dangerous for vaccinated people than for unvaccinated people.

    Same as the original strain and all other variants.

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  8. Kathy says:

    @de stijl:

    You left out gamma ray bursts from a nearby supernova. We have no way to protect ourselves against that.

    We do have the technological know-how to deflect an asteroid or comet on a collision course, but none of it in place and ready to go.

    On the bright side, it may be that mRNA vaccines could knock out the next viral pandemic in short order. For something as bad as COVID or worse, I’d even recommend skipping safety trials and proceeding directly to efficacy trials.

    Anyway, for a decent treatment on various catastrophic possibilities, you may want to look up Asimov’s A Choice of Catastrophes.

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  9. Gustopher says:

    It is worth noting that the issue is not that the delta variant is worse, in terms of illness, but that it is more contagious

    The jury is still out on that. There are more younger people in hospitals, for instance, but it’s hard to tease out whether that means it affects young people more, or just that older people are more likely to be vaccinated.

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  10. @Gustopher: This is fair.

    But, as @David S. said: “The bottom line is still “pls get vaccinated” and the details are irrelevant for anyone who’s not trying to be an epidemiologist.”

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  11. de stijl says:

    @Kathy:

    One of my favorite alt-history novels is The Years of Rice and Salt.

    The premise is that the Black Death wiped Europe completely 100% except for the outer Orkneys, Faroe, and Iceland.

    The story is told in chunks by a recurring set of soul archetypes doomed to inevitably die horribly and are reborn elsewhere after an interlude in the Bardo. I forgot to say the bones of the book are Buddhist.

    It tells a history of the world where Europe died in the cradle in ~ 1350. China, core Arabic Islamic states, Persia, Silk Road peoples, native Americans, India, etc. develop and wage war and conduct science and have treaties and have cold wars, and so on but told through three main recurring character archetypes in chunks in one place and time. Then they die. Rinse and repeat.

    It’s fairly fascinating but the premise outshines the prose fairly frequently.

    I spaced out – author is Kim Stanley Robinson. Same guy who wrote the Mars trilogy (Red, Green, Blue)

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  12. Gustopher says:

    @de stijl:

    I’m scaring myself. Stop now.

    It’s times like this that I remind myself that I don’t have kids, and that I am 50. This world only has to hold together in some form for another 30 years or so, and I’m golden.

    I’m pretty optimistic.

    And, even if it doesn’t, I had a massive pulmonary embolism a few years back, so this is all just bonus time anyway.

    (All other things being equal, I’d rather the world remain habitable long after my departure, of course. I might even be willing to make sacrifices in the here and now if it would help.)

    (And I’m hoping that my next cat is genetically engineered to photosynthesize, to cut down on meat consumption — make all that sitting in the sun pay off)

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  13. Gustopher says:

    @de stijl: There is a short story by Douglas Coupland (of “Generation X” and “Microserfs” fame) called “The Wrong Sun” in his book “Life After God”.

    The many vignettes of how people were killed in the nuclear holocaust have stuck with me. Good stuff, for certain definitions of stuff.

    “The Uninhabitable Earth” by David Wallace-Wells is also some pretty good end-of-the-world horror. It’s non-fiction, but we can hope it turns into fiction…

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  14. Scott F. says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:
    I weep for the profound lack of accountability in the vaccine fear-mongering.

    According to the Commonwealth Fund the vaccination program has been hugely successful, stating, “without a vaccination program, by the end of June 2021 there would have been approximately 279,000 additional deaths and up to 1.25 million additional hospitalizations.”

    And the results could be even better, but GOP politicians and the talking heads on Fox and OANN continue to relentlessly scare people away from being vaccinated. It’s depraved.

    And the political calculus is beyond my comprehension. These rightists mostly hurting their owning constituents and I can’t think of any way the anti-vaxxing helps the conservative agenda. It’s only about keeping Biden from a clear win and owning the libs.

    It’s Death Cult behavior, yet it won’t cost these politicians or pundits a thing. Is there anything more demoralizing?

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  15. EddieInCA says:

    I’m all out of sympathy.

    I’m all out of empathy.

    I’m all out of flying f**ks.

    I’m to the point of: “Just let them all die if they keep choosing to be stupid.”

    Many in the GOP have gone from “I’m choosing not to get a vaccine because it’s my right.” to “I’m choosing not to get a vaccine because it’s my right and you getting one just shows that you’re a woke socialist marxist who eats babies culled from your pedophilia ring while trying to indoctrinate my children into becoming Trans while teaching them critical race theory, but I’m not racist!”

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  16. Kathy says:

    @EddieInCA:

    I’m to the point of: “Just let them all die if they keep choosing to be stupid.”

    Alas, most of them won’t die. They may eat up large amounts of resources not dying, and then going through long COVID. That’s not good. SARS-CoV-2 is still not political. Many will even probably boast they got through it and this proves it’s no big deal, even if they barely survived after days on a ventilator.

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  17. de stijl says:

    @Kathy:
    @Gustopher:

    This will sound nerdishly optimistic. I have high hopes for us. If we can get off this rock and establish colonies where people have drudge jobs and marry / partner up and have kids and worry about the mortgage we have a solid shot.

    Sol going red giant is billions of years away. We have plenty of time.

    My genes? Could not care. My bloodline is shot through with maladaptive neurosis and a predilection towards substance abuse and dementia. I am a genetic dead end and glad of that. My DNA will get roasted in a crematorium someday fairly soon in the big picture. The last of my line.

    You have to accept your passing. This, too, shall pass. There is no Heaven and there is no Bardo. Our individual consciousness will fade to black one day quite soon. Cool with that.

    The bigger whole I have high hopes for. Our collective kids and their kids and their kids and so on.

    Every now and again I contemplate big time. If we survive what will we become? Compared to the span the earth’s existence human consciousness is a blink. I hope it lasts. If not, at least a pretty good run.

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  18. Scott F. says:

    @EddieInCA:

    Many in the GOP have gone from…

    I’ve also got no sympathy for those who are choosing to risk death or chronic respiratory problems just to own the libs. But, it takes no sympathy for the victims to want the people responsible for their death and illness to pay a price. The people feeding the message to the GOP hoi polloi need to burn in hell.

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  19. de stijl says:

    @Kathy:

    Viruses are not political. They need a host and a vector. They do not care. They are incapable of caring.

    Viruses want nothing beyond replication. They don’t even “want” that in a conscious way.

    Viruses do not care who you voted for or why. Viruses do not care what lawn signs you put up.

    Viruses need a host. That’s it. Full stop. A host that walks around shedding and sneezing and does not nail personal hygiene creates a new host.

    Re-echoing my first sentence, viruses are not political. They are incapable.

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  20. Kathy says:

    @de stijl:

    Every now and again I contemplate big time. If we survive what will we become? Compared to the span the earth’s existence human consciousness is a blink. I hope it lasts. If not, at least a pretty good run.

    My take on long spans of time concerning Earth goes more or less like this:

    So for 4.5 billion years little of consequence happened, and then some anthropoids began making tools, and painting on the insides of caves, and carving figures out of stone and bone, and otherwise leaving behind them, on purpose, a legacy of who they were.

    We should be able to live through climate change, even if civilization falls. We’ll have to start over, but with some knowledge and expertise left over. The same goes for other large catastrophes like a super volcano (there’s one under Yellowstone, and it’s overdue for an eruption), an asteroid/comet impact, a very large mass coronal ejection (if that’s even possible). I’m less sanguine about surviving a large enough nuclear war.

    By “We” I mean the human species as we are today.

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  21. de stijl says:

    @Kathy:

    You went full Yellowstone. Aw, crap!

    The prospect of that finger of molten heat full erupting kinda freaks me out a lot.

    It is also overdue. Way overdue geophyisically. It could go tomorrow. It should have popped 10,000 years ago all things being equal.

    I would be human toast a few minutes after a full eruption.

    Not if but when. The Yellowstone burst will render the vast percentage of North America utterly uninhabitable and might kill all photosynthetic plants everywhere and thus all terrestrial critters.

    Ragnarok without the mythical bullshit.

    A massive eruption will kill us all.

    My inner anxiety prone self is just thrilled you brought that up! Kidding. Kinda.

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  22. de stijl says:

    @Kathy:

    There were humans in Oregon when Crater Lake was made.

    Those close in died quickly. Pyroclastic flows can run incredibly far.

    There were folks who had seen that volcano in the distance and lived to tell the tale. Walked in and saw a huge fucking hole in the ground that gradually filled up with water.

    A blink ago in big time.

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  23. Teve says:

    Good news! The US Geological Survey does Not think Yellowstone is overdue for a Super Kaboom!

    “Is Yellowstone overdue for an eruption? When will Yellowstone erupt? Yellowstone is not overdue for an eruption. Volcanoes do not work in predictable ways and their eruptions do not follow predictable schedules. Even so, the math doesn’t work out for the volcano to be “overdue” for an eruption. In terms of large explosions, Yellowstone has experienced three at 2.08, 1.3, and 0.631 million years ago. This comes out to an average of about 725,000 years between eruptions. That being the case, there is still about 100,000 years to go, but this is based on the average of just two numbers, which is meaningless. Most volcanic systems that have a supereruption do not have them multiple times. When supereruptions do occur more than once in a volcanic system, they are not evenly spaced in time. Although another catastrophic eruption at Yellowstone is possible, scientists are not convinced that one will ever happen. The rhyolite magma chamber beneath Yellowstone is only 5-15% molten (the rest is solidified but still hot), so it is unclear if there is even enough magma beneath the caldera to feed an eruption. If Yellowstone does erupt again, it need not be a large eruption. The most recent volcanic eruption at Yellowstone was a lava flow that occurred 70,000 years ago.”

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  24. Jax says:

    @Teve: We have some bottomless mudholes on our ranch that were surveyed years back, and the geologists’ best guess was that they were connected deep underground to the Yellowstone caldera. If I see that shit starting to boil, I’ll let you all know. There won’t be much hope for me, given the proximity, but I’ll be your early warning system. 😛

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  25. Gustopher says:

    @de stijl:

    You have to accept your passing. This, too, shall pass. There is no Heaven and there is no Bardo. Our individual consciousness will fade to black one day quite soon. Cool with that.

    I have a friend who likes to say “All’s well that ends.”

    It’s a great line.

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  26. de stijl says:

    @Kathy:

    Lot’s of interesting stuff happened before us. 4.5 billion years is a long god-damn time. (I know you being facetious.)

    Evolution. Proto-plants exposed to atmosphere at low tide. Then land dwelling plants. Terrestrial arthropods. Bigger plants. Proto-trees. The deciduous coniferous divergence.

    IRL I hate insects. They are creepy and alien. Ladybugs are cool. The biologist in me knows better. Arthropods made earth earth.

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  27. Michael Reynolds says:

    People, we spent 50 years with the Doomsday Clock at one minute to midnight. And yet, here we are.

    Worry has to be managed or it eats you up. Start despairing about climate change when you see the Dutch give up. They are the front line, at least on rising seas. If they still think it’s winnable, unclench.

    This ain’t the Bronze Age. We have tools. We have abilities. And we are the champions of adaptability among large animals. We are the only large predator left on planet Earth that isn’t endangered. The apex predators of the third rock from the sun.

    Something will squash us eventually, but sufficient unto the day are the worries thereof. Despair is inappropriate for humans.

    Besides, I know exactly how this plays out. The climate heats up, Yellowstone pops like Belushi’s zit, and the ash counterbalances the heat rise.

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  28. Kathy says:

    @de stijl:

    Lot’s of interesting stuff happened before us. 4.5 billion years is a long god-damn time. (I know you being facetious.)

    Interesting to whom?

    Without us anthropoids, who’d ever know what happened on Earth? Who would care? You need a functioning intelligence to even know events took place, and to make sense of them. Without intelligence, there’s no meaning nor relevance to anything, because there’s no one for all that to make sense to.

    Sagan said ““The cosmos is within us. We are made of star-stuff. We are a way for the universe to know itself.” Without an intelligence, the universe knows nothing.

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