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Following hours and hours of research over the past 18 months on the COVID-19 vaccines, tests, and the virus itself, and as a scientist who spent four years in a lab studying DNA and running PCRs for my master’s thesis, I wanted to help thwart off possible sickness here in Rappahannock County for those of us you (myself included) that have grown tired of remaining vigilant against virus by wearing worn out masks and limiting social interaction.
In short, it’s not time to let your guard down — yet.
Most of what you’re about to read will be pretty surprising as it’s not being reported widely by the media, but it’s in the literature so here goes:
This delta variant, as most of you know by now, is a real voracious bugger that’s seeking out everyone and anyone in which to replicate itself. This is the main takeaway point here, and one I’ve heard Dr. Fauci state no less than three times and also confirmed in a literature search: Both the vaccinated and unvaccinated are capable of spreading the Delta variant, and at roughly the same rate.
Our nasopharynx (nose and mouth) area act as little replication manufacturing plants for the virus. You don’t have to get that sick to act as one such plant and spread the virus unwittingly to your friends, neighbors and loved ones.
Further, one of the dangers in delta is that its symptoms can appear as inconsequential as a common cold, head cold, or sinus infection. I’m mortified hearing ambulatory people say that they feel ill, but when I ask about their symptoms they simply reply, “It’s just a cold.” I tell them they could very well have The Virus and they look at me in disbelief.
And yet this is what my research has uncovered. One reputable source said gone are the days of decreased olfactory senses of smells and tastes and the dry cough and high fevers and chills and excruciating body aches and debilitating headaches, all of which were glaringly obvious signs of COVID-19 infection. Currently, symptoms are oftentimes watered down to practically nothing, partly thanks to successful vaccination.
However, in being vaccinated, many people are letting their guard down and the shots are now acting like a double-edged sword. Folks don’t realize that they may have delta, and they believe that the vaccine has made them close to invincible against it. They’re not quarantining anymore when they get the sniffles, they’re not masking up and socially distancing like they used to, and they’re unknowingly spreading delta like a Western wildfire.
Delta is waning overall across the U.S., but in places where many residents never had the virus — like Rappahannock — it’s seeking out unsuspecting vectors and is having a heyday potentially making them very sick. But there is also speculation that you can get repeatedly infected by different variants, so best to keep that in mind as well. I read one rather depressing article by a physician who stated that, while you can hole up as a hermit for the foreseeable future to avoid the virus, eventually you’ll go out and about again and will contract the disease. We’re all going to get COVID-19 eventually, he said, so you should prepare yourself accordingly.
Also understand that the tests — all of them — are anything but 100% accurate. The rapid test can have accuracy as low as 35% and even the PCR test, although more reliable overall, can dip to as low as 50%. There are many variables that play into such a low efficacy, such as self-swabbed CVS patients (again, myself included) not dipping that nose stick as far back as they should, thereby missing the likelihood of picking up a viral concentration high enough to be detected.
And there are two types of antibody tests, I just learned from the New York Times. One works better on the vaccinated, another on the unvaccinated — and, again, neither is 100% accurate. I hear my friends say, “Oh no, I don't have Covid,” as they wander the streets under the weather.
“I tested negative.” Unfortunately, there are many things about this virus that were casually mentioned earlier in the pandemic that both doctors and patients seem to have forgotten by now; I’m not sure why the media isn’t drilling these little tidbits into our skulls, but it’s dangerous.
While the delta is waning, the new Mu variant looks to be on its way — or so they say (the Lambda variant went nowhere). Some scientists and virologists are projecting that the variants will become more contagious and less deadly and will turn into something eventually more like the common cold (another type of coronavirus), ending the pandemic and turning it into another endemic disease with which we’ll have to live.
We aren’t seeing that quite yet and have no idea where this thing is really headed. So for right now, at least for the next few weeks, it might be a good idea to mask up indoors again and save that kiss for friends until November.
The writer lives in Washington