September 20, 2023 at 11:12 a.m.
COVID-19 Cases Increase
...time to get the new COVID vaccine
I remember very well the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic and how it became very much a political issue as it spread. The truth is, believe it or not, the politicization of a public health issue cost more lives. Some people died from COVID-19 because of political opinions.
There are those who are still angry about the decisions to close schools and businesses to slow the spread of the virus. Some claimed the whole pandemic was nothing but a political ploy. One popular national radio talk show host said it was "nothing but the flu."
This reporter knew 18 people personally who died as a result of COVID-19. Some will say they died from other causes, but had they not been infected by the virus, they might still have been alive. I knew one restaurant owner who posted on Facebook in August 2020 that it wasn't real. He caught it September and died in October of that year.
The arguments about COVID included the separation of the populace into the 'maskers' and the 'no-maskers.' Large gatherings including political rallies where most of those attending refused to wear a mask and later to get the vaccines turned into what were called 'super spreader events."
By now, you've certainly heard or read that COVID (a new variety) is once again putting people in the hospital and some have died, although nothing close to the numbers last year or the year before.
The Lincoln County Board of Education discussed the return of COVID at a recent work session, but plans no special steps related to the latest outbreaks. School board meetings last year often saw disagreements among members over whether or not to require students and others to wear masks at school.
Chances are you've seen some people wearing masks again. Lincolnton mayor Ed Hatley wore one at the early September City Council meeting. The mayor has had some health problems that mean he has to be more concerned than most about what COVID might do if he's infected.
Just like last year, I have seen some of those wearing masks doing it the wrong way--with their nose uncovered. Not covering the nose makes the mask essentially useless.
I don't think we're going back to mandatory masking again--in schools or otherwise. The masks did help to prevent the spread of the virus--and other other respiratory viruses, like influenza and colds; but they were never totally effective. Some wore cloth masks that offered no real protection to the wearer and very little to others. The Lincoln County Schools had masks made for schools with school logos; they were pretty--but almost worthless for preventing spreading COVID.
A cloth mask is only slightly more effective than holding your hand over your mouth when you sneeze. Real protection is possible with N95 (or KN95) masks, which both help to reduce the spread to others and offer some protection to the wearer.
IF you are attending mass gatherings, especially if (like the mayor) you have a health condition that would make COVID perhaps more deadly to you, wearing an N95 mask (the proper way--nose also covered) might be a good idea.
Not only is mandatory masking not likely to return, the surges of COVID variants is also not likely to approach last year's figures. There has been an increase in new cases, especially of a new variant, but truthfully, we don't really know how many. Some milder cases are likely never identified as COVID. The systems for reporting of cases and deaths have been partially dismantled.
Around the world, we know even less than we do about the cases in the US. For many countries who've decided the pandemic is over reporting of cases and deaths is no longer being done. 61% of the world's countries did not report a single COVID case in July and August. We do know that where reports are still being made, cases have increased.
South Korea had less than 60 weekly deaths from COVID in July; that increased to 250 each week on average in August.
The United Kingdom saw an increase from 55 per week in July to 115 in August. [Source: World Health Organization]
In this country, weekly COVID hospitalizations increased from 6,300 in the month of June to 17,000 in August.
As it did in its earlier versions, COVID is hitting certain age groups harder than others. Two-thirds of US hospitalizations with COVID were 65 or older. Kids under 5 years old accounted for 5% of hospitalizations
If your last COVID vaccine was before September 2022, or if you're 65 or older, you’re probably due for an updated dose.
I've seen (and you may have also) recent Facebook posts attempting to say the vaccines aren't effective. Those posts are based on erroneous opinions and are not based on medical evidence.
While some who have received the vaccines still get COVID, the data on infections and deaths dispel that opinion. Your chances of not getting COVID and of not dying from it if you become infected are much, much better if you get vaccinated than if you don't.
Some have also criticized the vaccines by saying they're no longer authorized. That's true--but only for the monovalent Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines, which are no longer authorized for use in the US because the available data indicate that the bivalent Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines provide improved protection against severe illness.
One of the most knowledgeable doctors who specializes in communicable diseases recently provided what I believe is an appropriate analogy.
In every US state, pet owners are required to get their dogs and cats vaccinated against rabies. Even so, some don't. But well over 90% do. By removing the possibility of those animals becoming infected and spreading the disease to other animals or humans, we have made cases of rabies a rare occurrence in anything but wild animals--and even among them, we usually have very few cases each year. Had everyone been vaccinated against COVID, we would have seen much fewer cases.
IF you got your vaccination as soon as possible and if you've had the booster shots, you may still need to get vaccinated. According to the North Carolina Dept. of Health & Human Services, if your last COVID vaccine was before September 2022, or if you're 65 or older, you’re probably due for an updated dose.
By now you've likely heard that a new vaccine targeting the newest variant that is responsible for most of the recent COVID cases is coming, and if your doctor doesn't have it yet, he or she soon will.
COVID-19 vaccines are still available for free to everyone 6 months and older living in the United States, regardless of immigration or insurance status.
The effort to provide free Covid-19 vaccines to the uninsured will not start at retail pharmacies until mid-October. Previously, medical providers could give the shots to anyone and it was funded by the government. Now, your insurance including Medicare and Medicaid will be billed for the shots. Details are still being developed for providing COVID vaccinations for free to the uninsured.