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It’s time to see the COVID-19 reality

A View From the Edge
This current wave with the Delta variant is seeing an increase in hospitalization at a much faster and greater rate than the first wave. How come?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state health departments are busy trying to get you to vaccinate, wear protective masks and generally stop this pandemic. With all the tools they are offering, you would think people would wise up and get protected if only to save their neighbors and family. But, when you listen to actual numbers from around the world, perspective on why the vaccinations are vital and the only way forward for the economy and health institutions becomes crystal clear. As more and more countries lift restrictions, real numbers may be helpful for you to judge how safe and free you can be…

You see, no one has told the coronavirus that this is a good time to go without protection. And in case you missed it, we’re clearly into a third wave of the virus with the Delta variant, possibly with the Lambda variant yet to come.

At the peak of the first wave, more than 20,000 people a day were being hospitalized in the USA, 4,000 a day in Britain and 2,000 a day in the Netherlands. All of Europe had the same rates. Of those, one in every 20 persons in the hospital (who contracted COVID-19 without a vaccination) died. The second wave last January was about the same; 1 in 20 died in the hospital — that’s how deadly this virus is, remember that. To date, 612,000 Americans have died from COVID-19.

This current wave with the Delta variant is seeing an increase in hospitalization at a much faster and greater rate than the first wave. How come? Well, the Delta variant is much more infectious and the hospitalization rate here is based on those not vaccinated, not on every person as before. 

And the in-hospital death rate? Even with better treatment and no shortage of ventilators, those unvaccinated patients are dying at a rate slightly higher than before.

The truth is, the decision to open the economy is a gamble based on a race to vaccinate. The more people vaccinated, the lower the death rate, maybe not lowering the rate of infection for the unvaccinated, especially as we now know that vaccinated people can transmit the virus, especially to kids. If we had opened up last January, the death rate would have been maybe 10 times as bad because there were so many unvaccinated. As the USA is looking at 750,000 total dead by the end of this year — that’s one in every 440 people — the race to vaccinate becomes even more clear because, without at least 80% coverage, that death rate of the unvaccinated will be higher, especially with the youngest.

What can you do? Think of this as one scientist in Britain did. Image we’re at the top of a very steep mountain. You want to get to the bottom safely. Isolating is like wearing good climbing shoes, helping you to be safe as you slowly pick your path down. Wearing the mask out in public is like using a walking stick keeping you from falling. Getting the vaccine is like walking with others, going carefully but more assuredly. Now, when we’re getting near the safety of the bottom, it is shrouded in mist. Do you discard the safety measures you’ve taken, does the nation? That last bit of the mountain might be only 2 feet, or it could be 30… do you take the risk after all your careful, hard work and jump? No, you should proceed cautiously until you reach the bottom.

Wear a mask, get vaccinated. Stay safe, we’re not out off the mountain yet.


Writer Peter Riva, a former resident of Amenia Union, now lives in New Mexico.

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