“No, we have learned to live with [the flu], just like we are learning to live with Covid…”
That was former President Donald Trump, more than a year ago, after being hospitalized with Covid, noting on Twitter that the U.S. was learning to live with Covid just like it has learned to live with seasonal influenza, which still kills tens of thousands of Americans each year despite vaccinations.
Fast forward to 2021, and the American people are now receiving somewhat disquieting news from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC). First, on July 27, CDC upgraded its mask guidance, stating that even vaccinated individuals needed to still wear masks indoors: “Added a recommendation for fully vaccinated people to wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission.”
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And then on July 30, CDC published the study that caused it to change its guidance, noting breakthrough cases in Barnstable, Massachusetts from the so-called delta variant of Covid. Of 469 cases, 346, or 74 percent, were among individuals: “During July 2021, 469 cases of COVID-19 associated with multiple summer events and large public gatherings in a town in Barnstable County, Massachusetts, were identified among Massachusetts residents; vaccination coverage among eligible Massachusetts residents was 69%. Approximately three quarters (346; 74%) of cases occurred in fully vaccinated persons (those who had completed a 2-dose course of mRNA vaccine [Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna] or had received a single dose of Janssen [Johnson & Johnson] vaccine ≥14 days before exposure).”
In addition, genomic sequencing of 133 patients tested found 119 were delta variant: “Genomic sequencing of specimens from 133 patients identified the B.1.617.2 (Delta) variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in 119 (89%) and the Delta AY.3 sublineage in one (1%). Overall, 274 (79%) vaccinated patients with breakthrough infection were symptomatic. Among five COVID-19 patients who were hospitalized, four were fully vaccinated; no deaths were reported.” Here, CDC is saying that vaccinated individuals who contract the delta variant can still spread it.
Therefore, the study concludes, “Findings from this investigation suggest that even jurisdictions without substantial or high COVID-19 transmission might consider expanding prevention strategies, including masking in indoor public settings regardless of vaccination status, given the potential risk of infection during attendance at large public gatherings that include travelers from many areas with differing levels of transmission.”
This would be the third time CDC and the federal government has changed its guidance on masks. First, in March 2020, it was you don’t need a mask. Then in April 2020, they recommended masks. Next, this year, in a bid to increase vaccines, they said you could remove your masks after being vaccinated. And now, they’re saying you have to wear masks no matter what.
So far, five out 469 of the cases resulted in hospitalization, a rate of 1 percent, and nobody has died. That is far lower than current national rates, but what is not known currently are the underlying health conditions of the 469 cases. According to the study: “further study is underway to identify other population characteristics among cases, such as additional demographic characteristics and underlying health conditions including immunocompromising conditions.”
That additional information would tell readers whether this particular outbreak had worse outcomes than what we’re currently seeing around the country. And without that data, it is also questionable why CDC is jumping the gun to make a sudden national policy shift.
Of which, nationally, there is a lot of good news to report, according to data compiled by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), showing that the virus is far less deadly than it was a year ago.
In April 2020, the mortality rate (from cases in mid-March 2020) peaked at 0.97 percent (2,258 daily deaths versus 231,899 total cases in mid-March 2020), and hospitalization was 28.5 percent (66,138 beds needed).
In Aug. 2020, the mortality rate (from cases in mid-July 2020) peaked at 0.5 percent (1,150 daily deaths versus 229,599 total cases in mid-July 2020), and hospitalization was 30 percent (68,945 beds needed).
In Jan. 2021, mortality (from cases in late Dec. 2020), peaked at 0.47 percent (3,365 daily deaths versus 706,041 total cases in late Dec. 2020), and hospitalization was 19.7 percent (139,134 beds needed).
In April 2021, mortality (from cases in early April 2021), peaked at 0.26 percent (700 daily versus 262,389 total cases from early April), and hospitalization was 17.3 percent (45,647 beds needed).
In July 2021, mortality right now from cases earlier this month so far is 0.16 percent (307 daily deaths versus 191,730 total cases), and hospitalization is 11.9 percent (22,773 beds needed).
And in Sept. 2021, IHME projects the mortality rate will arrive at 0.22 percent from the current upswing of cases, or 704 daily deaths from 310,065 total cases in mid-August, and 60,456 beds will be needed. But that would still be lower than April.
The good news here is that as there is more herd immunity, both from natural spread or vaccinations, plus more is learned by doctors about how to treat the disease, and more Americans who are susceptible take preventive measures, the overall death rate from Covid continues to decrease.
Meaning, Trump was right. Not only have we learned to live with the virus, we are defeating it — and without another round of lockdowns, which come with their own costs. Death from other causes besides Covid jumped dramatically in 2020, too, leading to tens of thousands of additional deaths, in large part due to lapses in health care.
We don’t want to do that again. Meaning, we should stay the course. As long as the death rate continues to drop, there should be no panic — and no return to the 2020-style lockdowns. We’re almost through this.
Robert Romano is the Vice President of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government.
Cross-posted with The Daily Torch
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