“We’re gonna be in this state forever,” a Johns Hopkins’ professor launches a broadside at the tactics of other public health professionals and experts as the media is ablaze with concern over a new variant, slowing vaccination rates, and even more variants to come. It wouldn’t be a pandemic without false claims of deadlier diseases and poor comparisons to what happened last year!
The mainstream media is abuzz with talk about the new “Delta variant” of coronavirus, calling it “more dangerous and more transmissible,” even more deadly, and worried that it was “spread to almost every state in the US, fueling health experts’ concerns about Covid-19 spikes.” Those quotes are from CNN, by the way, but their concern is coming from the top echelons of government and academia. None other than CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, she of the “sense of impending doom” fame, is warning about it. “The UK variant was more transmissible. That is now nearly 70% of the virus here,” she said. “We know that the Delta variant is even more transmissible than the UK variant, and I anticipate that will be the predominant variant in the months ahead.”
Apparently, the situation is so dire that some local governments and health officials are reinstating mask guidance and mandates. In Los Angeles County for example, the Department of Public Health reinstated guidance for public indoor spaces even for vaccinated people, though the guidance is non-mandatory for now. They claim this new guidance is necessary until they can “better understand how and to who the Delta variant is spreading.” There’s even talk of reinstating mask mandates for the new school year; for example, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy hasn’t made the move on a statewide level yet, but noted individual districts could decide “to make it protocol” and that things could change if the situation gets worse.
Even President Joe Biden is getting in the act, tweeting that the Delta variant is both more transmissible and more deadly. “Here’s the deal: The Delta variant is more contagious, it’s deadlier, and it’s spreading quickly around the world – leaving young, unvaccinated people more vulnerable than ever. Please, get vaccinated if you haven’t already. Let’s head off this strain before it’s too late.”
Unfortunately for him, there is no truth to the statement that the Delta variant is more dangerous. A British study of unvaccinated people infected with the strain found only 44 deaths out of 53,822 patients, for a fatality rate of .08%, prompting pushback from both politicians and other experts. “I think it’s used to manipulate people to get vaccinated,” said Johns Hopkins’ professor Dr. Marty Makary. “And I’m for vaccines, but this has turned into a tool to try to coax people into it. Listen to the language, ‘our biggest threat.’ This is not our biggest threat. This has the same case fatality rate and it’s primarily infecting young people who have a case fatality rate similar to seasonal flu.”
Likewise, the World Health Organization fears that the spread of the virus is outpacing vaccinations and recommended that even vaccinated people should wear masks in places with high rates of spread. The good Dr. Anthony Fauci appears to be in this camp, or perhaps a more radical wear masks forever camp. Last month, he said “We’ve had practically a nonexistent flu season this year merely because people were doing the kinds of public health things that were directed predominantly against covid-19,” and that it was “conceivable” people would wear masks for another couple of years. Dr. Fauci and others also embrace they idea that the virus must be eliminated in its entirety, as in ceases to exist anywhere in the world. Dr. Makary takes issue with this approach for obvious reasons, “ And also listen to Dr. Fauci’s language, ‘seeking elimination.’ We should not be trying to seek elimination. That’s an elusive target and if we’re gonna try to do that we’re gonna be in this state forever.”
Given that most states only recently lifted their mask mandates and many Americans such as myself are finally breathing freely again, it’s worth considering what is driving this budding renewed mask trend. The proximate cause is the Delta variant which now accounts for about one fifth of cases in the United States. While 20% sounds like a lot, it’s not when you consider how far cases have fallen over the past few months. The 7 day average of new cases in the US as of June 27 is 11,480. This is down from 17,141 on June 1, a 33% decline in less than month. When you consider the average was 49,783 as recently as May 1, it’s obvious the number keeps moving in the right direction. In fact, Dr. Fauci himself once indicated that 10,000 cases per day was the magic number to declare the pandemic over, but now somehow around 2,300 cases of the Delta variant is enough to start it back up.
They back this idea up with disturbing reports from a few pockets of the country that are experiencing an increase in infections and hospitalizations. For example, Missouri was declared a “hotspot” for the Delta variant last week. “Missouri is seeing a concerning uptick in hospitalizations due to Covid-19’s Delta variant, which originated in India. In Springfield alone, there has been a 225% increase in hospital admissions since June 1, according to the Springfield-Greene County Health Department. The Delta variant — which has been found to be more transmissible than others — now accounts for about 29% of cases in Missouri, more than any other state, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”
The numbers sound alarming, but when you look beneath the surface the 7-day average of new cases in the Show Me state stands at 814, meaning they are seeing about 236 cases of the Delta variant per day. To be sure, this represents an increase from June 1 when it was 412. To put this in perspective, however, in January the number of cases was regularly well over 3,000 and in December over 4,000. I am certainly not averse to monitoring the situation to ensure it doesn’t get worse, but hysterics over a couple of hundred cases hardly seems warranted given where we’ve been. It is true that Missouri has an issue with vaccination rates: Only about 38% of the population is fully vaccinated, close to 10% behind the US average, likely contributing to the increased spread, but also likely enough to prevent a full fledged outbreak.
Of course, this doesn’t prevent the experts from imagining an emerging scenario of healthy blue states and sick red ones. Seriously, this is what CNN spends its time on these days now that the pandemic is 99.9% over. Here’s resident propagandist Stephen Collinson last week, “An emerging scenario, for instance, of a nation divided by Covid — between vaccinated Democratic states and skeptical and sickened conservative bastions — is deepening an already bitter political estrangement.” Dr. Fauci alluded to this same idea just this week. “When you have such a low level of vaccination superimposed upon a variant that has a high degree of efficiency of spread, what you are going to see among under-vaccinated regions, be that states, cities or counties, you’re going to see these individual types of blips,” he said. “It’s almost like it’s going to be two Americas.”
In addition, much is being made of the idea that we are experiencing some kind of summer lull before a fall spike. According to CNN, “doctors say it could cause a resurgence of Covid-19 in the fall — just as children too young to get vaccinated go back to school.” As we all know, coronavirus exploded in the US between last November and January, when cases shot up to hundreds of thousands per day. This is a situation we should all want to avoid repeating, but consider if we are truly in a summer lull by comparing the data with last year. Last June, the 7 day average of cases was 36,842, more than 3 times the current rate. The lowest ebb afterwards was in mid-September, but we were still averaging 35,042 cases per day. We aren’t seeing anything like those numbers now, making year over year comparisons dicey at best. If anything, they support the idea that the pandemic is just about over.
Unfortunately, that’s where we find ourselves: All evidence points to the pandemic coming to an end, but some people simply refuse to accept reality, as Dr. Makary said, “we’re gonna be in this state forever.” If you need any more evidence, they’re already talking about another variant, the Lambda variant, and, you guessed it, this one is worse than ever.