Manny Otiko | California Black Media
Don’t put away that mask. While the American public might be celebrating the lifting of the tightest COVID-19 restrictions in most parts of the United States, the coronavirus pandemic is far from over.
According to medical doctors, the United States is currently dealing with a new strain of the virus, the Delta variant, which is more lethal and virulent than previous strains. The Delta variant originated in India towards the end of last year and was first identified in America in March.
The Los Angeles County Health Department is so worried about a new outbreak, its told residents to mask up again.
“Since the Delta variant is more infectious than other variants, Public Health recommends wearing a mask around others in indoor spaces, regardless of vaccination status,” said the LA County Department of Health in a tweet.
Dr. Jerry Abraham, director of Kedren Vaccines at Kedren Health in Los Angeles, has already seen signs of the new strain in the Los Angeles community. He said medical professionals are already gearing up for what he called the “5th wave” of the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s already in LA,” he said. “We assume the rates will go back up.”
Like other viruses, Covid-19 is constantly mutating. When the virus encounters new hosts (particularly unvaccinated bodies,) it changes and gets stronger. The best way to eliminate the disease is to vaccinate about 70 % of residents in a community (herd immunity,) so the virus doesn’t have any places to grow and survive.
Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding, an epidemiologist and health economist and a senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists in Washington, D.C., emphasized this point during a recent Ethnic Media Services virtual briefing on the efficacy of continued mask use.
“The more warm bodies the virus has, the more opportunity it will have to mutate,” said Feigl-Deing, who is also the Chief Health Economist for Microclinic International, a San Francisco-based non-profit that bills itself as an organization that “revolutionize how deadly diseases are prevented and managed worldwide.”
“If you let it spread, it will mutate,” he warned.
Feigl-Ding added, at this stage, reaching herd immunity is not realistic, and we need to look at alternative solutions to contain the virus, such as continued mask usage, ventilation, hand washing, disinfecting surfaces and air purification devices.
But over the last year, the debate about vaccinations became political. A large number of people who supported former President Donald Trump downplayed the virus and accused Democrats of overstating the severity of the pandemic. A lot of those skeptics even refused to take the vaccines.
Some say they don’t trust the science. Others do it to resist what they see as pressure coming from liberals.
But health experts say, refusing to take one of the three vaccines approved to fight COVID-19 in the United States is dangerous and only allows the virus to thrive.
Data is beginning to show the effects of politicizing public health. Deaths and infections are going up in red states, while the numbers have been steadily declining in blue states.
“A study from the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland, finds that states with Republican governors have experienced the highest number of COVID-19 cases and deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to Medical News Today.
Medical data shows that 99 % of recent Covid 19 deaths were unvaccinated people, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading virologist and director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Abraham is a big proponent of vaccination and estimates his clinic has given about 300,000 inoculations to people in the South Los Angeles area. But he still sees worrying trends. According to Abraham, only about 40% of Black Men in the area are vaccinated.
He is also troubled by the attitude he sees in a demographic he calls “the Invincibles” (young people in their late teens and early 20s who don’t think they’ll ever get sick.) Many of them, Abraham says, are reluctant to take the vaccination, even though they’re eligible.
Abraham said he encountered many “Invincibles” at the recent Juneteenth celebration in Los Angeles, and many of them had a nonchalant attitude towards Covid-19. He said many young people he encouraged to get vaccinated said, “I’ll get over it.” They think if they eat right and are healthy, they’ll survive Covid, he said.
But Abraham said healthy people can get sick and still need to get vaccinated.
“You’re never going to exercise or eat your way off a ventilator,” said Abraham.
Abraham also warned the situation would worsen during the fall when it gets colder, and people spend more time inside.
“It’s not a matter of if,” said Abraham.
He also said that pandemic diseases are becoming more common. There are several reasons why this could be occurring, such as overpopulation, children growing up in sterilized environments, poor nutrition, global warming, poor health and poor sanitation in the developing world.
And we live in an increasingly globalized world, so it’s easy for a disease that originated on the other side of the world to end up in the West.
“What happens in South Asia will affect us in L.A.,” said Abraham.