Fasten Your Seatbelts:

If you are like me, you are getting aggravated by the resistance many of our fellow Americans have to protect themselves and everyone has contact with, including their families from Covid-D and its most virulent and contagious form, the Delta Variant. About 99.999% of fully vaccinated Americans have not had a deadly Covid-19 breakthrough case, CDC data shows

At least 70% of US adults have received at least one vaccination dose, US health officials announced yesterday, with more than 60% having been fully vaccinated. The figure translates into about 58% of those over 12 having received both shots, or over 50% of the total US population. No vaccines have been approved or have received emergency use authorization for children under 12 years old. The White House is trying hard to reach Gen-Z’ers who have yet to be vaccinated,

After falling for more than three months, the number of vaccines administered in the US has risen by about 30% over the past two weeks. The seven-day rolling average currently sits at 660,000 shots administered per day. Officials say the spread of the more transmissible delta variant has prompted many people who were previously noncommittal to receive the vaccine.

Roughly 165 million Americans are fully vaccinated, implying the vaccines are more than 99.9% effective against severe illness and death from the coronavirus.

The alarming spread of the Delta variant through communities now comprises more than 93 % of new cases nationwide, and it has been detected in more than 135 countries. Delta can be as infectious as chickenpox and is only slightly less contagious than measles, which is considered one of the most transmissible viruses, It’s more transmissible than Ebola or smallpox. With the original version of Covid-D, one person might infect 2 or 3 other people; someone with the Delta variant will spread it to nine other people.  New cases of COVID-19 continued their upward climb in states across the U.S., with an average of more than 66,000 new cases each day. People who say they will never get a Covid-19 vaccine are disproportionately likely to be white and to live in rural areas. “The war has changed,” writes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Delta is not only more transmissible than previous SARS-CoV-2 variants, it can also cause more severe disease. People infected with the Delta variant harbor about 1,000 times the number of viral particles (which experts call the “viral load”) in their nasal swab compared to those infected with another strain. The Delta variant took an average of four days to reach detectable levels after exposure to a sick person, compared to about six days for the original Wuhan virus. Even after vaccination, Delta infections produced a 10-fold higher viral load than non-Delta infections. In fact several recent studies, none peer-reviewed yet, show that vaccinated people carry the same viral load as the unvaccinated. The Delta variant has also undergone multiple mutations in its spike protein that seem to improve the virus’s ability to bind to the ACE2 receptor and evade the immune response.

The Delta variant is spreading like wildfire through the South, particularly in Louisiana, which has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country; only 37 percent of the population is fully vaccinated compared to 50 percent nationally. Vaccination rates vary widely nationwide, and many counties in southern states, including Louisiana, Florida, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Alabama, have low vaccination rates that are now fueling raging outbreaks of the Delta variant. In the U.S., daily cases are now averaging 100,000, a nine-fold jump from mid-June.

“It’s surprising the extent of how infectious this particular variant is, and how well it can then replicate in the upper respiratory tract. Just the increased infectivity of this Delta variant has sort of increased our concern relative to what was there for the Alpha variant, which was increased relative to the original virus,” says Mehul Suthar, a virologist at Emory University.

Vaccinated people with breakthrough infections of Delta can spread the virus even if they do not get sick. This prompted the CDC to recommend masking indoors for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people in areas with high transmission rates. The C.D.C. recommends vaccines even for people who have been infected with the virus. Even people who have been vaccinated are not protected from being infected with the Delta variant and transmitting it to as many as nine other people.

The flu is no longer considered a pandemic and is now an endemic disease.  Based on CDC estimates between 12,000 and 61,000 people in the U.S. will continue to die from COVID-D each year,.

Still, there are vaccine holdouts, saying things like:

  • “Hands off my natural immunity!”
  • The vaccines are a government plot.” “They’d have to Taser me, drag me out, and give it to me while I’m unaware of it,”
  • “It has to do with my civil rights.” “The United States government’s main job is to protect me from foreign and domestic enemies. Not my health. I’m in charge of my health.”
  • “I have already had COVID-D and I am not worried.”
  • “I am not worried – the antibodies in my body are sufficiently protective.”
  • “The coronavirus vaccine is a greater risk to my health than the disease c itself.” (This is the view of most unvaccinated adults.)From Arizona to Virginia people in cars have circled their state capital buildings to protest masks and vaccines.  Why have anti-vaxxers have targeted so much rage at healthcare providers – the very people who have the responsibility for our health have been mocked, threatened, shouted down, and otherwise harassed. What do we know about these anti-vaxxers?  Some of them claim Bill Gates wants to put a microchip in our arms. They say they do not trust the government or the pharmaceutical companies that have developed the shots. Some politicians say the decision to vaccinate and wear masks should be left up to individuals.

July’s dramatic spike in global COVID-19 infections dimmed the proverbial light at the end of the pandemic tunnel. U.S. health officials met intense outcry when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shifted course and changed its recommendations for wearing masks. The CDC is now urging people who live in high-transmission areas to wear masks indoors—even if they are fully vaccinated. Similarly, public ire is rising after an increasing number of companies and local governments unveiled plans for sweeping vaccine mandates. The World Health  Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic on March 11, 2020. After 17 grueling and chaotic months, weary people are wondering: When will the pandemic finally end?

People have had to weigh risks throughout the pandemic, and they’ve often come to drastically different conclusions. In a world riddled with both obvious and subtle threats, danger can easily be misjudged, ignored, or disagreed upon. “It’s not just that different people see risk differently, but that the same person will react very differently to one danger than to another,” How the brain responds to risk, and how our need to weigh risks has changed during the ongoing pandemic.

As the Delta and Lambda variants rage against a backdrop of social activities resuming, borders reopening, and schools opening, people will continue to be presented with risks, and they will have to make decisions about what to do and what to avoid,  And the new guidance from the CDC is just that: guidance. States, schools, and private companies must now decide whether to require face coverings in certain circumstances. In the meantime, masking up—or risking infection—remains a choice for many Americans

Having the ability or right to choose, a mandate is without enforceability.

The spread of the Delta Variant comes at a dreadful time. The eviction moratorium expired when 14% of renters were late in paying their rent. That’s 11.9 million households, disproportionately households with children. Where do nearly 12 million people go? Many will go to shelters; others double up, moving in with other people, usually relatives. All of this results in closer contact, leading to an exponential rise in the Delta variant of Covid-D.

Trump’s time in politics has crippled American society and culture.  Social groups are now pitted against one another. Its conservative institutions, including media, foundations, and universities have turned increasingly advocating authoritarianism. Its conservative base is hardcore. Far-right extremists are sources of misinformation and lies regarding the pandemic.

People largely living in the South and Midwest claim, “we’re the real victims” and “all we have to do is cleanse away the hated minorities.”  Many of these people believe they won’t get Covid.  While most of the transmission is among unvaccinated people, the more SARS-CoV-2 spreads, the more breakthrough infections will occur. This means vaccination is now more important than ever. Yet vaccination rates are still less than they need to be, with an average of 615,000 injections delivered each day—an 82 percent decline from the April 13 peak.

The situation in many pockets across the country is becoming increasingly dire. Alarm over the Delta variant mounts as vaccination rates trail case counts climb. For months, scientists have been calling for mask mandates to control the spread of COVID-19, especially with the rise of the more contagious Delta variant. Louisiana is suffering a particularly severe outbreak, with an average of more than 3,500 cases each day last week—a rate that equals their prior peak in January 2021. Actions taken now will determine the course of the next chapter of the pandemic. President Joe Biden said in a July 30 statement, “We have the tools to prevent this new wave of COVID from shutting down our businesses, our schools, or societies, as we saw happen last year.”

Have people always responded to threats like this? To some yes and sometimes, no.

Did people rise up when polio shots became available? “ Did people refuse to buckle up their seat belts on airplanes?  Did people comply with getting a driver’s license and license plates, wearing seatbelts in cars?   None of these requirements were around when the Constitution was adopted.  Add to these other ‘musts’ like not driving drunk and paying taxes.

Not everyone liked the requirement to wear seatbelts while riding in a car The question was asked once in a national survey in 1985. Just over half of Democrats supported a mandate for seat belts; just under half of Republicans did. Add in those who didn’t care much, and both groups were near 75 percent.

People did fuss and object to wearing a helmet while riding a motorcycle, claiming they were exercising their personal freedom. Lots of psychological factors influence individual responses to danger, as well as our willingness to make risky decisions.

In the mid-1970s, most states required motorcycle riders to wear helmets. In 1975, nearly every state had a helmet law. About 3,200 motorcycle riders were killed in accidents. By 1980, less than half of states had such laws. More than 5,000 riders died in accidents that year. Then, in the 1980s, states began retracting those laws, often citing precisely the sort of personal freedom we hear so much about in the context of the vaccine. A 2009 study found both that rescinding or scaling back those laws was correlated with increased motorcycle fatalities and that it was Republican governors and legislators who were most likely to promote the changes. States with Republican governors were 22 percent less likely to have helmet laws.

In Florida in 2000, its legislature passed amending Florida’s helmet policy to apply only to those motorcycle riders who are either under age 21 years or without a certain level of insurance. In the year after the law change, rider fatalities in Florida rose 21.3%. The difference between not wearing a helmet and not getting vaccinated is that the motorcycle rider is likely endangering only his or her own life, but the unvaccinated endanger everyone they come in contact with.

A year and a half into the pandemic, we now know that COVID-19 is much more than a respiratory illness. It can ravage the lungs, the kidneys, weaken the heart, and affect the brain. As many as 1 in 3 COVID-19 survivors experience mental health or neurological disorder within six months of coronavirus infection. Another study discovered that about half of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 had altered brain function or structure. Studies revealed at the 2101 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference showed COVID is a global pandemic, and it is linked to a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease and related problems. More than 6 million Americans currently live with Alzheimer’s disease and that number is already projected to more than double by 2050. Being infected with COVID-19 predisposed to Alzheimer’s. More than 2.3 million Americans have been hospitalized with COVID-19. Also linked is loss of smell, a common symptom of COVID-19, to cognitive impairment and forgetfulness.  The structures within the brain that subserve the olfactory [smell] function overlap significantly with those that are affected by Alzheimer’s disease. Many COVID-19 patients also experience clotting abnormalities, which could lead to “small strokes or small ischemic injury. Deaths from Alzheimer’s disease were about 16 percent higher in 2020 than in previous years.

In 2013, Ralf Schmälzle, a communication neuroscientist at Michigan State University studied people’s risk perceptions of another viral threat: the H1N1 pandemic, colloquially known as the swine flu. The participants then watched a fact-based documentary about the swine flu as Schmälzle scanned their brain activity, measuring it with magnetic resonance imaging. The team found that the anterior cingulate cortex—the part of the brain often associated with processing threats—fired synchronously in the participants who already believed H1N1 posed a risk. “If you lack this sort of intuitive aspect to the risk perception, then you will not see a need to wear a mask or get vaccinated”

Giving people the freedom of choice is best except when our behavior harms other people, according to Dr. Helweg-Larson. That’s why we encourage quitting smoking and limiting and restricting where you can smoke—but we do not outlaw smoking. In the case of COVID-19, the choice could be to get vaccinated or put up with the inconvenience of regular testing and masking. With the acceleration of the pandemic hanging in the balance, some public health officials are making the case that society as a whole might not be able to rely on people’s ability to assess risk and make the safest, smartest choices.

In recent weeks, all levels of governments, and many companies—including Facebook, Google, Netflix, Morgan Stanley, the Washington Post, some 600 universities, hospitals,  and medical centers —have announced vaccine mandates. In the past, such mandates have proved pivotal in stamping out pandemics. The Pentagon will require all military personnel to get the COVID-19 vaccine by Sept. 15 or sooner, according to a new memo from Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

The Pentagon will require active-duty members of the US military to receive the COVID-19 vaccine by Sept. 15. Officials estimate at least 1.2 million active- and reserve-duty troops are at least partially vaccinated. However, rates vary between branches, ranging from the Navy (74%) to the Army (50%).

Between 1919 and 1928, 10 U.S. states introduced vaccine mandates for smallpox, while four states prohibited mandates—and a February 2021 study includes data showing that cases of smallpox were 20 times higher in states that banned mandates than in states that enacted them.

If we do not move effectively to curtail this, it will cast a long, dark on the history of this nation.

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