Just When You Assumed It Was Safe to Go Outside, the Delta Variant Strikes

July 12, 2021
Anthony Eyring
Adrienne Hollis
Senior Climate Justice and Health Scientist

When I began this particular blog, I was in Mobile, Alabama with my mom. During that time, the city had completely opened up—and mask wearing became optional, except in medical facilities. Like most ill-prepared states, Alabama opened early. But even before it opened, I saw that the vast majority of people in Mobile were moving around maskless and with little regard for social distancing.

The problem with opening early was that just last year, Mobile was a hotspot for COVID-19! In April 2020, during the height of the pandemic, Mobile had the most COVID-19 cases and deaths in the state. Alabama, including Mobile, began reopening slowly in May 2020. As reopening occurred, so did an increase in COVID-19 cases—almost doubling in number, particularly in the African American community. Since the beginning of the pandemic, at least one in 10 Mobile residents have been infected with COVID-19 for a total of 42,424 reported cases. Over the last week, Mobile County, Alabama has averaged 26 new confirmed cases per day (6.2 cases for every 100,000 residents). This strongly suggests that Mobile/Alabama did not heed the science and scientific information. Instead, they continued to place lives at risk, people became infected with COVID-19 and some died. Unnecessarily.


 Did the US open too soon?

Although I focused on Alabama generally, and Mobile specifically, these trends can be seen all over the country. The question then is, did the US open too soon?

Yes. I am a staunch believer that cities opened too soon and too fast. COVID-19 is STILL a threat. COVID-19 variants are more easily transmissible and possibly more deadly than the COVID-19 of old, particularly the persistent Delta variantnow the dominant strain in the US


COVID-19 and the Delta variant

According to a report in Yale Medicine, the Delta variant, which caused 90 percent of the cases in the United Kingdom, is “a highly contagious (and possibly more severe) SARS-CoV-2 virus strain.” The Delta variant is estimated to be 60 percent more transmissible than the next-most infectious strain — the Alpha variant. That means it spreads almost twice as easily as the original coronavirus! It has not only spread in India and Great Britain, but it is also devastating southeastern China. But I fear that people are not concerned about it.

There are some who are so relieved to have the ability to dine out or attend sports events or concerts or go to the grocery store or other public places—all without wearing a mask—that the threat of COVID-19 is not an issue for them. People are so concerned with “getting back to normal”—which will NEVER happen, by the way—that they ignore the mounting health threats. They think that because they have been vaccinated—even if they only received one of two needed vaccine shots, that they are forever protected. But they are wrong! Research has suggested that getting only a partial vaccine dose does not protect against the Delta variant. There is evidence suggesting that it is more deadly and causes more infections in people with some immunity compared with other strains.

In addition, this variant is more active in young people. Here in the U.S., adults aged 18 to 29 have had the lowest vaccination rates of any age group, a recent CDC report found. Although this group overall has a lower risk of severe disease or death from COVID, they run the risk of hospitalization and of developing “long haul” syndrome. People with “long haul” syndrome may experience any number of health issues, including the following:

  • Tiredness or fatigue
  • Difficulty thinking or concentrating (sometimes referred to as “brain fog”)
  • Headache
  • Loss of smell or taste
  • Dizziness on standing
  • Fast-beating or pounding heart (also known as heart palpitations)
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Cough
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Fever
  • Symptoms that get worse after physical or mental activities

Some people may also experience multi-organ effects. “Long Haul” Syndrome is REAL and LIFE-CHANGING.

Add to that the people who did not get vaccinated at all! I am not talking about those who simply could not get the vaccine for medical reasons or who needed to do their own research because of health concerns, but others—the “anti-vaxxers” who selfishly chose not to get vaccinated, but instead depend on others to do so, in hopes of the US reaching herd immunity. Add that to the anti-maskers, and you have a real health threat, people! That is the epitome of selfishness!


Why should we be concerned?

  1. The CDC officially classified the Delta variant as “a variant of concern” on July 6, 2021.
  2. According to the World Health Organization, the Delta variant has been detected in 98 countries and continues to “evolve and mutate.”
  3. The Delta variant debuted in the U.S. in March 2021, cases are rapidly multiplying, and it has now spread to all 50 states.
  4. For the U.S., the number of new infections on July 2, 2021 was 12,809, up 15 percent from June 20, according to data compiled by The New York Times. Twenty-four states and the District of Columbia have seen increases over the past two weeks—19 states are up 23 percent or more.
  5. Health officials say the increases in COVID-19 cases are largely a combination of two factors: the spread of the Delta variant and low vaccination rates in some states.
  6. As of July 7, Mobile County was listed as a very high risk for COVID-19 infection, however Mobile County’s vulnerability index  reports that it is more vulnerable than nearly all US counties. The report states that communities with higher vulnerability have pre-existing economic, social, and physical conditions that may make it hard to respond to and recover from a COVID-19 outbreak. This is true all across the country! I discussed pre-existing conditions earlier in the pandemic.
  7. Most importantly, one of my grade school friends lost his 30-something year old daughter to COVID-19 last month. And he is far from the only person to lose a family member to this virus.

What can we do to protect against the Delta variant?

  1. The CDC has provided suggested actions to protect yourself from COVID-19 infection.
  2. If you haven’t gotten the vaccine and there is no medical reason prohibiting it, get vaccinated. This is a NO-BRAINER! Although I do not really know what people are waiting for, I do understand that there is hesitation. If you are one of those people with questions, do your research using credible, sound resources and talk with your doctor. What is more convincing than more than 600,000 deaths from COVID-19? This is common sense—which as my grandmother used to say, is not so very common! Fact: Over 3.28 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines were provided to Alabama, and as of June 20, 2021, 1.56 million people were fully vaccinated, which amounts to 31.9 percent of the population. In Mobile County, only 142,819 people (32.8 percent) have received at least one dose and 121,672 people (29.4 percent) are fully vaccinated. The national average for fully vaccinated people is 48.1 percent of the population.
  3. If you’ve had one dose of either Pfizer or Moderna, GET THE OTHER ONE! Studies show that two doses of either mRNA vaccine seems most effective at protecting against the Delta variant; one dose, not so much (unlike other versions of the coronavirus, where one shot did have strong protective effects).
  4. Gather and use scientific data! One of the issues that I have been writing about for months is the lack of reporting data, which would help communities when targeting for vaccination. That initially included the CDC identifying communities of color as special populations of concern on their website. It also includes state reporting of COVID-19 infection and deaths by race and ethnicity (and also pre-existing conditions), which would have been useful in crafting a more effective vaccine rollout, targeted to frontline and essential workers first (of course) then to the most vulnerable. This does not depend on age (oldest first) because Black and Brown people do not, on average, live as long as their White counterparts. When age alone is used to determine vaccine rollout, a huge portion of the most susceptible groups is overlooked.
  5. A very novel, yet effective way of targeting vaccinations is to use data on COVID-19 infections gathered by ZIP code, which occurred in Mobile County.  Although it is not the norm, data on vaccinations was also reported by ZIP code in Mobile County. This information can be extremely helpful, by targeting those ZIP codes with high infection rates for vaccinations and ensuring that residents in those areas were vaccinated. This would decrease the probability of infection and death. By the way, some of the “hot spot” ZIP codes in Alabama were ones beginning with either 365 or 366. My mom’s ZIP code is 36617.
  6. STOP ACTING LIKE COVID-19 IS NO LONGER A PROBLEM! IT. IS. STILL. HERE. That is the reality we must ALL face.
  7. STOP BEING SO DAMN SELFISH AND WEAR YOUR DAMN MASK…EVERY DAY…EVERYWHERE YOU GO! If you do not, you could kill me or someone else. Really.