We have been warned. Health officials in Mississippi, around the country and even around the world are telling residents in this state, if they would just bother to listen, what is coming in the next phase of the pandemic.
The delta variant of COVID-19 is here. It’s more contagious than any strain of the coronavirus this country has experienced to date. And while it may be less lethal, it appears to sicken younger adults worse than did previous strains.
“I think people have no clue what’s about to hit us,” Dr. James Lawler, a health expert in Nebraska, told The Associated Press.
Already, Mississippi is seeing the first inklings. Cases and hospitalizations are rising quickly again. If past patterns are a guide, death increases will follow.
Should the predicted surge materialize, it probably won’t be as deadly as the one experienced last winter, before vaccinations became widely available and treatments for the illness were still being refined.
But whatever is coming, it could be reduced in severity if the unvaccinated would get over their hesitance or resistance.
Mississippi’s vaccine rate has been lagging the rest of the nation from nearly the outset of when the shots first became available. Still less than a third of the state’s residents have been fully vaccinated, although Leflore County has done better than the average. As of Tuesday, it was one of only six counties in the state with a vaccination rate of 40% or more.
That’s good, but not good enough.
Certainly some believe they already have immunity because they’ve contracted COVID-19 in the past or suspect that they have. Natural immunity, however, may not be strong enough against the delta variant.
Researchers in France recently reported that naturally acquired antibodies were fourfold less potent against the delta variant than against previous strains of COVID-19. However, just one vaccine shot (two are still recommended for the most common serums used in the United States) dramatically increased the person’s protection not only against the delta variant but two other mutants.
We’re all tired of the virus. We get it. But the fatigue — not to mention the infection rate — is only going to worsen if people don’t pay attention to what the health experts are forecasting.
When meteorologists tell Mississippi that a hurricane is coming, all but the foolhardy take precautions, boarding up their property, even evacuating. They hope the forecast is wrong, that the weather system will weaken or change course. But they are prepared in case it doesn’t.
Mississippi has been given similar advanced warning about the delta variant. Ignore it at your peril.
- The Greenwood Commonwealth