Just as the country thought it was safe to get rid of masks, COVID-19 has made a sudden, startling comeback.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the seven-day moving average of new cases for the week ended Aug. 6, stands at nearly 123,000 per day. The Associated Press has reported more than 44,000 people were hospitalized in the U.S. last weekend, a 30% increase from the prior week and four times the number in June. Daily deaths hover around 500, nearly twice the rate of two weeks ago.
Of those hospitalized, 97.5% are unvaccinated, a group that represents 99% of deaths. An unvaccinated person is 300 times more likely to die from COVID than one who is vaccinated. One infectious disease expert recently pointed out that for the unvaccinated it is “Not a matter of if you will contract the virus, only a matter of when.”
It has been proven that the vaccines are safe and highly effective and while a tiny number of “breakthrough” cases do occur, the vaccines afford a very high level of protection against severe disease and death. According to the Cleveland Clinic, only 0.005% of fully vaccinated Americans have experienced a breakthrough case resulting in hospitalization or death. So, while it’s not impossible to experience a breakthrough case or even accompanying symptoms, the odds of serious illness in vaccinated people remain minuscule.
People, no matter how misguided, have the right in a “free country” to follow the demagogues and science deniers by rejecting the vaccine, just as people who are interested in protecting others and staying alive themselves have the right to take the shot. However, this is largely a choice available only to adults. Children under 12 do not have that choice, as no vaccine has yet been produced for their use, and children aged 12 to 17 most often must follow the guidance — or misguidance — of their parents.
With the current surge, vaccination rates among adults are finally beginning to rise, but as they do, children make up an increasing share of new cases. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, cases among children accounted for 19% of new cases reported in the last week of July. The New York Times has reported that in the first week of August an average of 216 children with COVID were being hospitalized every day, a rising number.
Think you are safe in the country? Think again. There have been 2,580 cases of COVID in Otsego County so far in 2021 – a number that by year’s end will easily far surpass the 2,011 total cases here in 2020. On Monday, there were 72 active cases in the county – up from just one case two weeks ago. With a current positivity rate of 3.1 percent, the future for the unvaccinated looks grim.
In approximate numbers, according to the 2020 census estimates, there are 9,400 children under the age of 18 in Otsego County. Of these, 2,500 are under age 5, and 3,700 are between ages 5 to 11, for a total of 6,200 for whom no vaccine is available. Of the 3,200 children aged 12 to 18 for which a vaccine is available, with a vaccination rate in the county of 53%, if applied to this age group, then approximately 1,700 may be vaccinated, leaving 1,500 unvaccinated. That means 7,700 children under the age of 18 are unvaccinated and vulnerable, nearly 13% of the county’s entire population. With a seven-day average positivity rate of 3.1%, 238 unvaccinated and highly vulnerable children could contract the virus in any given week.
These are incredibly frightening numbers. What is the risk to our children when nearly half of the local population remains unvaccinated? How many sick or dying children will it take before unvaccinated people stop playing Russian roulette with our kids?