COVID-19, the Delta variant and the future of the pandemic
By William Crymes
Let’s start with an update of the numbers as of late September 2021:
- COVID-19 has claimed the lives of one of every 500 Americans (668,000) surpassing that of best estimates of the 1918 pandemic.
- We are averaging 150,000 new cases a day.
- There are 106,527,882 unvaccinated Americans eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.
- More than 90 percent of all hospitalized patients are unvaccinated.
- More than 97 percent of intubated patients are unvaccinated.
- The COVID-19 Delta variant is responsible for nearly all hospitalizations.
As the numbers from the recent Delta variant surge of COVID-19 start to fall, there is reason for both hope and despair. First, the good news and the reason for hope: We have three vaccines that provide excellent coverage and have shown to have very mild side effects. With the full FDA approval of the Pfizer two-dose vaccine, there is hope that the hesitant will stand with the 181 million Americans like myself who are fully vaccinated.
To end the pandemic we must reach herd immunity, which is about 90 percent of the population. We have had 42 million COVID-19 cases in the United States since our first case a little more than 600 days ago, for an average of 69,000 cases per day. We have about 223 million Americans who have either had the virus or have received the vaccine. At the average rate of infection it will take nearly three years to reach herd immunity by natural infection. At the average rate of 650,000 vaccines per day since the first vaccine in December 2020, we could reach herd immunity in just more than three months, and we would avoid the deaths of more than one million Americans (by COVID-19 infection) at the current mortality rate of 1.6 percent.
The Delta variant is about twice as infectious as the original COVID-19 strain. This doesn’t seem impressive at first, but let me explain. Let’s say a person with the original strain interacts with 20 people and two become infected. With the Delta variant, one person interacting with 20 people would infect four. If you repeat these scenarios five times, the person with the original strain would have infected 62 other people, and the one with the Delta variant would have infected 1,364 people.
As vaccine and mask mandates get argued in the courts, COVID-19 will continue to spread. As governors bluster about going to the gates of hell to prevent these mandates, COVID-19 spreads further. As people continue to listen to ill-informed “experts” on vaccine side effects, COVID-19 continues to proliferate. As Americans celebrate personal liberties granted in our constitution, COVID-19 spreads further. All the virus needs to continue to spread is the unmasked and unvaccinated.
Perhaps we need look no further than the preamble of the U.S. Constitution for the solution. A short 25 words into the preamble is the phrase to “promote the general welfare.” This is one of the most important and unifying concepts of our government and country. If you would like to “promote the general welfare” of America, get vaccinated and take a friend with you. It is truly the most patriotic act that most of us will ever be asked to do.
William B. Crymes, Jr. earned a bachelor’s from Emory University in 1992, a master’s in molecular genetics from University of South Carolina in 1998 and a doctorate in medicine in 2003 from Medical University of South Carolina. After graduating from medical training, he held an associate professorship in radiology at Emory School of Medicine before returning to Charleston, where he has been a practicing neuroradiologist for the last 11 years. He is eternally grateful for his wife of 24 years and two children for putting up with almost daily scientific rantings.