It’s time for one of this newsletter’s occasional updates on the state of the pandemic. The brief version: The situation continues to look reassuring for anybody who is vaccinated — but has become more worrisome for anybody who is not, largely because of the Delta variant.
Here are three more detailed points:
1. Cases are no longer falling
The news about Covid-19 has been mostly positive in the U.S. over recent months. The vaccines continue to work well against every variant, and the number of Americans who have gotten a shot continues to rise.
But the U.S. still faces two problems. First, the pace of vaccinations has slowed, and a substantial share of Americans — close to one third — remains hesitant about getting a shot. These unvaccinated Americans will remain vulnerable to Covid outbreaks and to serious symptoms, or even death.
Second, the Delta variant — which appears to be both more contagious and more severe than earlier versions of the virus — is spreading rapidly within the U.S., after having first been identified in India. It now accounts for about 10 percent of cases, according to Dr. Scott Gottlieb, a former F.D.A. commissioner.
Together, these two forces help explain why new cases have stopped falling:
Many experts are concerned that cases will eventually start to rise as Delta becomes the dominant form of the virus. “We are vulnerable,” Dr. Kavita Patel of the Brookings Institution told Yahoo News. On Twitter yesterday, Dr. Robert Wachter of the University of California, San Francisco, wrote: “I’ll now bet we’ll see significant (incl. many hospitalizations/deaths) surges this fall in low-vaccine populations due to combo of seasonality, Delta’s nastiness, & ‘back to normal’ behavior.”
2. But the vaccines work
In addition to being more contagious, Delta also appears to be more severe. As my colleague Keith Bradsher reports about southeastern China, where the variant has been spreading: “Patients are becoming sicker and their conditions are worsening much more quickly.” (China has more detailed data than many other countries, because it conducts rapid, widespread testing.)
But there is still one very big piece of encouraging news: The vaccines continue to work extremely well against the variants, based on the evidence so far. The best performing vaccines vastly reduce the number of Covid cases of any kind and virtually eliminate death.
“The Delta variant is by far the most contagious variant of this virus we have seen in the entire pandemic,” Dr. Ashish Jha said yesterday. “The good news is the data suggests that, if you’ve been fully vaccinated, you remain protected, that the vaccines hold up.”
The clearest place to see this pattern is Britain, where the Delta variant has spread widely and where the vaccination rate is high. In Britain, there is “still no sign of increase in deaths, well after the strain has become dominant,” as Dr. Eric Topol of the Scripps Research Translational Institute noted.
3. The lesson is clear
Nothing is more important than vaccination.
Persuading more Americans to get vaccinated will save some of their lives. And a more rapid global vaccination program can save millions of lives around the world. Delta already appears to be at least partly responsible for rising case counts in several African countries, Russia, Ontario and elsewhere.
“If you’re fully vaxxed, I wouldn’t be too worried, especially if you’re in a highly vaxxed region,” Wachter wrote. “If you’re not vaccinated: I’d be afraid. Maybe even very afraid.”
More on the virus: Novavax announced today that a clinical trial of its vaccine in the U.S. and Mexico found an efficacy rate of about 90 percent.
THE LATEST NEWS
The media equation: A labor dispute at The New Yorker has pitted the magazine’s junior employees against some star writers.
A Times classic: Compare the 2020 election results to 2016’s with this extremely detailed map.
Lives Lived: Ned Beatty was not known as a leading man, but he made a career from supporting roles in some of Hollywood’s most enduring films, including “All the President’s Men,” “Rudy” and “Network.” Beatty died at 83.
ARTS AND IDEAS
Jabbawockeez keep the masks on
For more than a decade, the hip-hop dance crew Jabbawockeez have headlined Las Vegas shows, always in their signature white masks and gloves. “We had this idea to create a crew that wasn’t about any individual dancer, but about the overall piece of art that we were creating,” Kevin Brewer, a founding member, said.
With that success comes responsibility. Hip-hop is a Black art form, and although the Jabbawockeez are a diverse group — 13 of the current members are Asian American, four are African American, two are Hispanic and one is white — the masks have largely helped them sidestep conversations about race, as Margaret Fuhrer writes in The Times.
Brewer and the other founding members have personally expressed support for social justice causes like Black Lives Matter in the past year. But they worry that speaking up on the group’s popular social media pages may put the brand — and all of the livelihoods it supports — at risk.
“I do feel this wrestling, where we do have this platform, and I do want to say something,” Brewer said. “But at the same time, the weight of it and how big it is … if I take my mask off and say the wrong thing, and somebody’s like, ‘Hey, you just said the wrong thing, Jabbawockeez going down’ — I don’t want to jeopardize anything.”
Read the rest of the article here. — Sanam Yar, a Morning writer