Delta surge continues to be a pandemic of the unvaccinated
In this July 16, 2021, file photo, a nurse sticks her head out of a room of a COVID-19 patient in the CoxHealth Emergency Department in Springfield, Mo. The COVID-19 pandemic has created a nurse staffing crisis that is forcing many U.S. hospitals to pay top dollar to get the help they need to handle the crush of patients this summer. | Nathan Papes/The Springfield News-Leader via AP

The number of coronavirus infections is much higher this year than it was on Labor Day weekend last year but the infection rates are highest and the population is most in danger in several states where the vaccination rates are low, Dr. Fauci warned this Labor Day weekend on cable TV news.

In danger are even people for whom catching the virus is the last thing on they are thinking about. If they need a hospital for any reason they are finding that in states with low vaccination rates that hospital space may be unavailable to them. “We are perilously close,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on CNN on Labor Day. “You’re going to be in a situation where you’re going to have to make some very tough choices.”

At least eight states report that they have more than 90% of their adult ICU beds occupied.

In Alabama, where schools have barely reopened, the state has had to switch back to remote learning, throwing parents who went back to work back into the mess they have faced all through the pandemic – stuck at home with children for whom there was no affordable daycare. Alabama now faces not just the resurgence of disease because of its low vaccination rate but, in addition, more economic disaster.

Alabama schools reported more than 9,000 new virus infections among students and staff during the first week of school. The infections were the result of the highly contagious delta variant. Dozens of students were sent home on the first day of school, and then more each day following. Now schools all over the state, after reopening only briefly, are closed to in-person instruction.

Long-time skeptics of the vaccinations are, however, finally beginning to change their minds as a result of the delta surge. Before he himself contracted the virus, self-proclaimed conservative Grantville, Georgia councilman Jim Sells said he didn’t trust health experts and was skeptical when it came to the vaccine. But then in late July, he tested positive for the virus. He became quite ill and was hospitalized.

“I’m not going to take this gift from God in the hospital and not try to do something to pass the word to my group of hard-headed conservatives,” he said on local Channel 11 in Atlanta. “You gotta consider being vaccinated,” he said.

As of last week there were almost 14,000 unvaccinated people hospitalized with COVID in another highly unvaccinated state, Texas. That’s close to the record number of hospitalizations for COVID set last January. The figures were reported in the Texas Tribune.

In neighboring Arkansas, things are not better than they are in Texas.

KATV reported the following on Sept. 2:

“Arkansas on Thursday (Sept. 2) reported 34 COVID-19 deaths, pushing the cumulative total to 7,003 and above the estimated 7,000 Arkansas deaths caused by the Spanish flu in 1918-19. The ongoing ‘public health war’ is trending toward a ‘strategic defeat,’ said Dr. Cam Patterson, chancellor and CEO of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS).”

Taken the lives of 7,000 Arkansans

“The virus has taken the lives of over 7,000 Arkansans. I cannot count on two hands the number of friends and associates I know who have died from Covid-19,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson said in a statement issued by his office. “My heart goes out to every family and friend who has lost a loved one to this virus. It’s a somber reminder of the toll this pandemic has taken and a reminder that we must continue to fight this virus together to save lives.” It’s too bad his heart didn’t go out to more people when he signed a law banning mask mandates in his state.

The Washington Post has featured extensive coverage of the pandemic in  Florida, yet another problematic GOP-controlled state.  Florida is where the state’s GOP governor, Ron DeSantis, has led a notorious anti-mask and anti-vaccination campaign.

His policies fueled more infection, hospitalization and death all summer. More than 7,000 have died since July 4 while the4 governor triggered hateful battles over masks and vaccines. New infections were averaging more than 22,000 a day in the last days of August but have fallen a bit to 19,000 now. It’s too early to celebrate, however, since Labor Day weekend figures are not in and this was a particularly busy holiday in Florida where holiday weekends have triggered huge outbreaks earlier in the pandemic.

By very important metrics Mississippi may be the worst place in the nation to be during the current delta surge.

“Mississippi has now surpassed the state of New York, the nation’s original pandemic hotspot, in total COVID-19 deaths per 100,000 residents,” reports the Mississippi Free Press. “The only state where the pandemic has proven deadlier than the Magnolia State is New Jersey. Mississippi displaced New York with a report of 65 additional deaths on Friday—a day after Gov. Tate Reeves told a Tennessee audience that southerners are ‘a little less scared’ of COVID-19 due to their religious faith.”

In Nevada, meanwhile, we were, by now, supposed to be seeing a return to the good old days of fun and frolic.

“Nevada on Friday reported 1,407 new coronavirus cases and 18 additional deaths over the preceding day, capping a week in which three of the state’s four main COVID-19 metrics declined,” reported the Review Journal. “Updated figures from the Department of Health and Human Services’ coronavirus website brought totals in the state to 394,595 cases and 6,583 deaths since the pandemic began.”

Kentucky’s Democratic governor is making no attempt to hide the seriousness with which he regards the situation in his state, describing things as “dire.”

He is angry about state Republicans failing to control the record wave of infections in his state. “If I had the ability to do it right now, we would have a masking order when you are in public and indoors,” said Gov. Andy Beshear, on national TV on Sunday.  “We know that’s a proven way to slow the spread of the virus and ultimately help our health care capacity.”

The situation with the pandemic is not at all fully clear. Vaccines have been effective but the large numbers of unvaccinated have helped spur continuing surges of the virus, particularly in those states where vaccination rates are low. Making things worse are the right wing anti vax and anti-masking campaigns pushed by the Republican Party. It will take a massive effort to counter those campaigns and support for federal programs that address the immediate health needs and the long term task of creating a fair and equitable economy for all if we are to get ahead of this thing.


CONTRIBUTOR

John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward, as a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee, and as an activist in the union's campaign to win public support for Wal-Mart workers. In the 1970s and '80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.

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