[AKN #51] Delta variant is raging, what are you going to do?
also Chris Farley raging and giraffes eating grass
Next week will be the 1 year anniversary of writing Another Krappy Newsletter.
How fun is that!
In celebration, I will most likely do one of those retrospective articles where the main takeaway is “everybody should write a newsletter!”
People love articles that promise one size fits all solutions with no nuance.
But in all seriousness, thanks for reading. I enjoy writing it quite a lot and all the kind words you have said make it more and more worth it.
On to the newsletter!
LIVE: Delta raging
So COVID is back.
Part IV: The Delta Variant.
There are a lot of interpretations of the data swirling around. So I thought I would share my thoughts on how I am thinking about the rise in cases that we are seeing.
I am not an expert, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night and sent a few sassy responses to anonymous Twitter accounts.
Ergo, I basically earned my MS in Epidemiology.
Note: All sources are cited at the end of this section so you can read the same things I am reading and draw your own conclusions for your particular use case. Also feel free to send me data you have if you think I missed something.
Let us start with 7 basic premises that inform where I am coming from:
Premise 1: There is a serious rise in COVID cases globally.
Premise 2: There is a rise in cases in particular portions of the USA.
Premise 3: There is evidence that the new cases globally are the infamous delta variant. Which means the ones in America are also most likely delta.
Premise 4: The delta variant spreads faster than the original variant.
Visualizing the difference in growth rate between these two yields the following:
Anecdotally, there are cases that back up this insane spread such as:
Somebody in Australia was infected by the Delta variant just by walking past an infected person, in a 5- to 10- second encounter.
Premise 5: The virus can still infect and kill people who are fully vaccinated. The delta variant is better than older variants at doing this.
This is not actually surprising. Because we all knew that vaccines weren’t 100% effective when we took them. They openly advertised them as 95% effective…
But I do agree that when you read that someone died after being fully vaccinated there’s a like “Oh wow. Hmm. Interesting. Also slightly terrifying.” thought that instinctively happens.
Premise 6: The vaccine is still “effective” against the delta variant in the sense that you have a far smaller chance of getting hospitalized.
According to data from Israel, the Pfizer vaccine appears to be at least:
90%+ effective against severe disease for people under 65 years old
80%+ effective against severe disease for people 65 and over.
Note: The drop off in effectiveness of the vaccine is most likely due to the waning immunity in the older population (since they received the vaccine first). This is why boosters are recommended for the elderly and high-risk later this year.
Premise 7: The low death rate we see is almost certainly because the vaccines prevent against hospitalization and death.
Ok. Given those premises, now comes the real question:
Cool graphs, but should we care?
The answer is pretty obviously “it depends.”
Namely, it depends on your:
1. Risk preferences
It seems obvious that regardless of the data there exists a subset of people who will scream at the top of their lungs about the dangers of COVID for the rest of time.
It also seems obvious that if you didn’t think COVID was a problem after watching a million people globally die, the recent uptick didn’t emotionally phase you at all.
People’s risk preferences are different.
2. Life situation
Perhaps you are a:
Parent who is worried about their unvaccinated or high risk child
Blue collar worker who depends on in person interaction to make your living
A cynical middle class yuppie who is so caught up in the smell of their own bullshit that they cannot see that the only reason they are being so overtly aggressive about demanding lockdowns is because they want to continue luxuriating in their own personal digital utopia forever
Whatever your situation is, it will inform what you think should happen next at a policy and individual level.
For example, if you have comorbidities, the data shows that you should still consider avoiding large crowds of people indoors even if you are vaccinated. That finding comes from Israel where they describe the fully vaccinated people that are still coming into the hospital with severe COVID:
Almost all of them (96%) had comorbidities: heart disease, lung disease, renal disease, dementia, cancer, or other common ailments. So, people who get breakthrough infections and are admitted are sicker than a usual person.
3. Vaccination status
The data shows there are two realities right now.
A. If you are unvaccinated, you should be scared.
Based on the data we see from other countries, the Delta variant is about to rip through the unvaccinated population with brutal efficiency.
I fear that people who have made it this long and are still not vaccinated have already told themselves a story that they made it through this and are on the other side, but they are very wrong.
The reality is that they — and all of us, more on that next — are going to get COVID and it would behoove them to be vaccinated.
So as a brief PSA: Please get the vaccine and continue to spread the word to the vaccine hesitant population.
While it may seem like a futile exercise to try and convince them, the data supports that people of all walks of life actually change their mind about getting the vaccine as time goes on:
So continue to answer questions and try to inform people!
And don’t be a fucking asshole about it when they ask legitimate questions.
B. If you are vaccinated, you should keep an eye on the data.
Listen. I am going to give it to you straight.
It is unlikely that COVID will ever go away or be held at low levels.
We most likely live in a world that has a flu and coronavirus season now. Complete with annual booster shoots for the newest COVID strain.
Additionally, all vaccinated people will be exposed to COVID and will most likely contract the virus at some point. This might scare you, but it is the reality we live in.
So what should you do?
Keep watching the data.
The most likely scenario is:
once everyone is exposed (and we should expect 100% seroprevalence) it will be a common cold-level threat due to immunological memory, even with new variants over time
But there could obviously be evolutions of COVID as it jumps around several other countries and comes back as the Lambda variant or Omega variant or whatever.
Let’s keep watching what happens and promise to change our minds and habits if the data shows its something scarier than the steady state common cold.
My personal risk calculus
Now that I have laid out the framework for how I think most people should make this decision, allow me to populate that framework with how I think about it:
Risk level: If the risk level has returned to “flu risk levels” for my particular use case, I feel comfortable living and operating normally.
Life situation: I do not have children and I am not a high risk individual nor do I live with one.
Vaccination status: As a healthy 30 year old who received an mRNA vaccine, I have not seen data suggesting that I should be worried about the delta variant.
Bringing all three of these factors together, I believe the data suggests that the delta variant appears to be about as dangerous for my use case as the flu.
Therefore, I feel comfortable living normally.
Obviously I might update this opinion as more data is shared and more is learned.
Attached below are all the sources I used for arriving at my thoughts above. Feel free to filter through and determine what all of this means for you.
This is the best thread on COVID trends and what that might mean for policy:
What about the children? Here is an article that covers the data on children.
Vaccine efficacy in Israel:
LAUGH: Chris Farley’s 1996 entrance on Letterman
Chris Farley came from a line of comedians when comedy was still allowed to be unhinged and funny.
A simpler time.
Lol but seriously this dude is a lunatic. The cartwheels!
LOVE: A giraffe eating grass
I promised in last week’s edition that I was going to write about fire this week, but I lied.
I ran out of steam after that delta variant run down. But I promise that I will do fire prevention next week.
In the mean time, how about you enjoy watching this giraffe eat grass?
You will never unknow that this is how giraffes eat grass.
You don’t have to go home, but you can subscribe here:
Disclaimer: Opinions expressed are strictly my own. Who else’s would they be?