Integrating a lot of reading this morning, the COVID/delta variant news isn’t good. In fact it’s pretty awful. Spreads like wildfire (R naught of 9!) and is capable of breaking through your vaccine’s protection. US cases are up 8X in the last month (graph below) – we’re back up to 80,000+ new cases per day and climbing fast. Looks like delta is going to burn through the population and give us herd immunity whether we want it or not. Yay us.
The only good news is that the mortality rate from cases in the last couple of months is very low – something like 0.2%, 10x better than at the start of the pandemic. I suppose we can chalk that up to more informed/experienced care being provided in hospitals (thanks, health care workers!) and to vaccinations. That overall statistic of 0.2% combines vaxxed and unvaxxed individuals, and other sources say that 99% of admissions and deaths are currently unvaxxed. That would make my demographic’s COVID mortality rate something like 0.002%.
Sooooo….the risk of contracting COVID is now quite high again, but the risk of dying from COVID as a vaccinated person is low. Very low.
The “well, shit” part comes into play as I consider our travel plans for the rest of the year. They are…extensive. I have 18 flights booked between now and the end of the year. 18! Each one of them means time in airports and shuttles, time should-to-shoulder on the flights, and coming into contact with random people / groups on the other end of each trip. So with delta’s extreme contagion, my risk of contracting the disease seems quite high, almost a certainty.
But my risk of being sick enough to be admitted to a hospital or dying is extremely low. So while I hate the comparison, for me it’s a bit like worrying about getting the flu. If you travel a lot during the flu season you’re going to get it, but it’s almost never a life-changing event. More like a week of feeling weak and sick.
All that said, I can’t shake the feeling that it’s a terrible idea to travel so much with the delta variant burning through the population. The objective numbers say go ahead, we’ll be fine. But some part of the brain is saying “run!”. Fear of the unknown is pretty uncomfortable.
UPDATE: This Forbes article is a tiny bit encouraging. An Imperial College of London study (not yet peer reviewed) indicates that mRNA vaccines provide 50% protection from Delta, as opposed to 95% protection from the original strain. Other factoids include that the vaxxed are half as likely to contract Delta as the unvaxxed. Kind of already knew that, but it’s nice when the science makes things more clear.
UPDATE 2: From today’s NPR article, the breakthrough rate is a range between 0.01% and 0.29% – very low, just better numbers than my back-of-envelope estimates. I was close. And the bad-outcomes rate (hospitalized or dead) is less than 0.01%, or one in 10,000. Again, consistent with my earlier estimates.