Delta variant continues to complicate COVID pandemic fight

Cyril Josh Barker | 8/26/2021, midnight
News of Rev. Jesse Jackson’s positive COVID-19 status and hospitalization was a shock to many considering that he’s fully vaccinated.
COVID-19 Image by PIRO4D from Pixabay

News of Rev. Jesse Jackson’s positive COVID-19 status and hospitalization was a shock to many considering that he’s fully vaccinated. Even though more people are getting inoculated from COVID-19, the Delta variant is causing the pandemic to rage on and doctors are advising everyone to continue to take precautions.

The Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus continues to ravage the city and nation. Reports indicate that daily average cases are up nationally by 930% since mid-June. The Delta variant now accounts for 90% of new COVID cases in the city. New York City hit a grim milestone last week reaching 1 million COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began.

Speaking on a morning talk show, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the Chief Medical Advisor to the President Dr. Anthony Fauci said the COVID-19 pandemic could see an end by 2022. That all depends, however, on how many more people get vaccinated.

“If we get through the winter, I hope as we get to the spring of 2022, we’ll be there,” he said. “I hope so. It’s up to us.”

In an interview with the AmNews, Chief Medical Officer at ArchCare Dr. Walid Michelen said COVID-19 breakthrough cases remain low even with the Delta variant. People who are vaccinated who do contract COVID-19 will likely experience mild cases.

Jackson’s COVID diagnosis is an example that the vaccine is not completely effective, according to Michelen. He says seniors, regardless of vaccination status, should continue taking extra precautions.

“There’s no vaccine in the world that gives you 100% immunity,” Michelen said. “Less than 1% of breakthrough cases are very serious. People that are older, their immune systems don’t work as well. They also tend to have illnesses that predispose them to getting infected.”

Michelen said that everyone who is vaccinated, regardless of age, should still practice social distancing, wear masks inside and, though the message has slightly fallen off, continue handwashing and sanitizing. Michelen said COVID-19 could become endemic unless 75% to 80% of the population gets vaccinated. So far, 52% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated.

Last week, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said booster shots of the COVID-19 vaccine starting next month. The first people eligible for a booster dose will be those who were the first to receive a COVID-19 vaccination including healthcare providers, residents of long-term care facilities, and other older adults.

Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine was given full approval on Monday by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Officials hope the approval will put more confidence in the vaccine.

In New York City, the seven-day rolling average percentage of positive COVID-19 tests in the city is currently 2.5%. A month ago, it was 1.4%. The Delta variant has not yet caused hospitals in the city to be overwhelmed with COVID patients as in other cities with a reported 67% of available beds filled.

Mayor Bill de Blasio reported this week that the city is going to surpass administering 10.5 million vaccine doses. He says incentives, like giving $100 to people to get the vaccine, are working. So far, 100,000 people have taken advantage of the cash incentive.

“We have a lot of work to do, but New Yorkers, in addition to being no strangers to adversity, we’re no strangers to hard work,” de Blasio said. “This is why New York City is the greatest city in the world. We work hard, we stay at it, and we have built a tremendous capacity to vaccinate New Yorkers effectively, safely, quickly for free.”

Another way the city hopes to get more people vaccinated is by setting up restrictions for the unvaccinated. New York’s new indoor vaccine mandate, called “Key to NYC,” is in full swing. All restaurants, fitness and entertainment venues are required to only admit people who can prove they’ve had at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Acceptable forms of proof of vaccination include a photo or hard copy of a CDC vaccination card, the NYC COVID Safe App or the New York State Excelsior App.

Civil rights lawyer Joshua Blane of the Gray Law Firm says the city failed to consider some exceptions and expects legal challenges.

“I read the mayor’s executive order and one of the things that surprised me that was missing was any sort of exception for religious or for health reasons,” Blane said. “That’s something, if I were drafting it, I would’ve included. I think that’s going to make it hard to support legally if and almost certainly when these challenges are brought against it.”

Blane adds that the indoor vaccine mandate could violate people’s First Amendment religious freedoms against getting the vaccine, freedom from bodily interference by the government or a violation of the American Disabilities Act for people who are unable to get the vaccine for health reasons.