A third Covid-19 surge is now expected as a the stronger Delta variant reaches the unvaccinated portion of the United States population. Long hospitalizations and a new spike in deaths will be the consequence, medical experts say.
At Stony Brook University Hospital, the head of infectious diseases said this week that nearly 99 percent of Covid-19 patients admitted there had not had the vaccine. Suffolk County’s rate of people who have completed their shot series is not nearly as good as it should be, with only slightly above half of a population of more than 1.4 million people fully vaccinated. The virus is still spreading in the county, slowly, but almost 100 new cases were reported on Monday alone — more than three times as many as were reported the same day in July 2020. Long Island hit its highest infection rate since April recently as well.
The difference may be masks. A year ago, strict restrictions on public and private gatherings were still in effect; New York officially ended its lockdown in mid-June. With that, most precautions were dropped. This has been especially evident at crowded social spaces, like the East End’s bars and restaurants, which draw customers from across Long Island and far beyond. Younger people are the least vaccinated, with only about half of 18-to-24-year-olds having had their shots. Though eligible for the vaccines, fewer than a quarter of children from 12 to 17 have had them. As a result, virus cases have been reported in summer camps and from other group activities.
One of the most serious risks that the unvaccinated population presents is that it could provide the virus a safe space to mutate into a vaccine-resistant strain or one that is more fatal. Though the death rate among younger people is low, that was not the case with the 1918-19 flu. Epidemiologists are concerned that a new variant might emerge, threatening all the progress made so far.
It is becoming increasingly obvious that wearing masks in close public places like supermarkets is still a good idea. Officials need to also take a close look at indoor nightlife venues at which the statistically less-vaccinated young adults gather and consider if restrictions should be imposed again.
Tremendous progress has been made in controlling Covid-19, but this is not a time to give up. The virus is subdued but not gone for good. Caution and individual responsibility remain of the greatest importance.