New cases of COVID-19 in Washington State are being seen in a pattern that has developed elsewhere in the country with the highly infectious Delta variant resulting in increased hospitalization and deaths. The statistics are alarming: 93% of people being hospitalized now with COVID-19 have not had the vaccine, and unvaccinated people make up 99.7% of deaths due to this disease. Even some people who are fully vaccinated have gotten sick from this Delta variant, but their illness is much less severe, and they are not dying.
A virus left to replicate and subsequently mutate in an unvaccinated population has now led to us being faced with this more deadly adversary. The Delta variant of Sars-CoV-2 (COVID-19) is much more infectious than the first virus strain we saw last year and infected persons carry an average viral load in their airways that is 1260 times (yes, you heard right – more than 1000 times) more virus than was seen with the first COVID strain. Conservative estimates are that is at least 200% more transmissible, and the cases we are seeing now are affecting younger people between the ages of 20 to 40.
Remember, a person can begin shedding contagious virus within 48 hours after exposure even though they themselves may not have any symptoms for several more days. With the Delta variant, every time someone talks or laughs, coughs or sneezes, the amount of virus released is 1000 times greater than that of the original virus which means the likelihood of spreading infection is far greater. For a person exposed to air shared by an unknowingly infected person, they are going to inhale 1000 times more virus particles than before, which may also account for why some people are getting much sicker with the Delta variant. It was assumed that a person had to be exposed to someone who was sick for more than 10 minutes to be at high risk for catching COVID. It appears this time is significantly reduced with the Delta Variant.
Clallam County, and especially our beautiful west end, has recently seen a huge influx of visitors from across the country. This is a welcome boon to our economy, but with only 56.57% of our county fully vaccinated, county residents are at higher risk in contracting the Delta variant. The good news is that the available vaccines can prevent COVID infections and is believed to be effective against contracting the Delta variant at preventing severe disease, hospitalization, and death.
You have trust in your healthcare provider, so you are encouraged to speak with you provider about vaccinations. You can request a vaccination from you provider during your visit.
To preserve the health of our community Forks Hospital is now offering free vaccinations Monday through Friday to all people over 18 years of age at the Bogachiel clinic. Come to central check-in in front of the clinic. You do not need to be a patient. Walk-ins are welcome, but for a minimal wait time, call 360-374-6998 in advance for a short appointment. Additionally, the County Health Department at 360-417-2483 is offering vaccinations every Thursday to all people including children over the age of 12.
Disclaimer: This column is not intended as a diagnosis or recommended treatment of a specific condition. Answers are not a replacement for an individual medical evaluation. Individual health concerns should be evaluated by a licensed clinician.