COMMENTARY: Delta variant may put us back in masks and lockdowns

by Jul 20, 2021OPINIONS



One Feather Editor


The most recently released information on our COVID-19 preparedness is a cause for concern. The news from the EBCI Public Health and Human Services Division is that we have fallen off to a trickle of citizens getting vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus.

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) is currently behind the state and federal averages of vaccinated populations with only 40 percent of the EBCI fully vaccinated. Conversely, 60 percent of our people are unprotected and could potentially spark outbreaks of the virus. Even the state numbers are lacking with 45 percent of the North Carolina population vaccinated. Even with that low number, the state has still outpaced us.

It is not for lack of trying. Our Cherokee Indian Hospital and Public Health and Human Services Division have been and continue to be the best when it comes to making shots available. It is safe to say that now they have provided for everyone who wanted the shots. With almost military precision, they have put out statistics, held information sessions, and vaccination clinics for tribal members and anyone who would roll up their sleeves. The vaccination slow-down is not at the production or distribution level. It is us. We are holding up the progress.

The politicizing of this particular medical emergency has completely fogged our ability to think rationally. There are some who are now saying that the virus is somehow a political weapon. If you are a conservative leaning person, then the liberal/progressive leaning people are using COVID-19 to advance their agenda. If you are a liberal or progressive leaning person, then the conservative leaning people are using COVID-19 to advance their agenda. However the politicians may or may not be using COVID-19, the fact is that it is here, and it is affecting lives short-term and long, and it is killing people. That cannot be denied.

Following are some quotes from around the country that are interesting on this subject:

“New COVID-19 vaccine warnings don’t mean it is unsafe – they mean the system to report side effects is working.”

– Justin Vesser, University of Virginia

“Delta variant makes it even more important to get a COVID-19 vaccine, even if you’ve already had the coronavirus. One study found that six months after receiving their first dose of the Moderna vaccine, 100 percent of people tested had antibodies against SARS-CoV-2. This is the longest period that has been reported in published studies so far. In looking at the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, antibody levels were also much higher in vaccinated people than in those who had recovered from infection. A study in Israel showed that the Pfizer vaccine blocked 90 percent of infections after both doses, even with new variants present in the population. A study with the original COVID-19 virus showed that vaccination after infection produces roughly 100 times more antibodies than infection alone, and 100% of the people who were vaccinated after infection had protective antibodies against the delta variant. ”

-Jennifer T. Grier, University of Virginia

“One in three survivors of COVID-19, those more commonly referred to as COVID-19 long-haulers, suffered from neurologic or psychiatric disability six months after infection, a recent landmark study of more than 200,000 post-COVID-19 patients showed.”

– Chris Robinson, University of Florida

“CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a July 1 White House briefing that preliminary data reviewed by her agency suggests 99.5 percent of the people who died from COVID-19 over the past six months were unvaccinated, a stunning statistic in support of her assertion that nearly every virus-linked death is now preventable.”

-Jemima McEvoy, Forbes Magazine

The COVID-19 research that has been going on for the past year and a half tells us that COVID-19 can be deadly. But, if you don’t die from it, your life could be significantly changed. The coronavirus may leave its host (that is you and me) with heart damage, lung damage, and brain damage. In fact, there is likely not an organ in our bodies that the virus can’t damage, or destroy. I risk fearmongering here, but it is a pretty frightening prospect that, while you might beat the virus outright, you might come through it with a chronic heart, lung, or brain condition.

According to information from Johns Hopkins University, “The average number of new COVID-19 cases each day the past week was 32,278. That’s a 66 percent jump from the average daily rate the previous week, and 145 percent higher than the rate from two weeks ago.”

It has been astounding, and appalling, to watch people who routinely go to the store and buy over-the-counter medications, pick up prescriptions written for them by their doctors, go for health advise and medical checkups and procedures, and send their kids to get vaccinated with a soup of preventative medicines required to enter school, balk at the opportunity to avoid death or serious long-term complications. Their reason? They say that they don’t trust the medical community. See what I mean about the fog?

Beyond the enormous risk to the body, the impact of a national relapse of COVID-19 will be dramatic and devastating. If we don’t control the spread, masks will become prominent in our future again, along with stay-at-home orders. Has our euphoria from the little bit of freedom that we have been able to enjoy made us drunk and oblivious to the harsh realities of less than a year ago? Statewide and nationwide lockdowns again would mean panic, hording and outages of essential items, supply chain disruptions, materials and energy price hikes. In fear of the Delta variant, the stock market lost 700 points in trading yesterday on news of the rapid resurgence of COVID-19.

When doctors identify a sickness, they treat it. It is their jobs, and they even take an oath to do that. Just because you saw on the internet that our doctors and nurses are part of a big conspiracy to advance some vaporous political agenda doesn’t make it true. Use your common sense. Did the doctors and nurses shy away when the vaccine came out? Nope. They were the first in line. And to further debunk another ridiculous theory, one reporter commented that there has not been a microchip invented that would pass through one of those tiny needles they use to give you the vaccine, and, even if it were, don’t you think they would have already done it with the hundreds of other routine vaccinations and medical procedures you get throughout your life?

The reality is that this new variant is hitting its stride at a critical time in our lives on the Boundary. Not only are we opening up venues and cranking up public events, but we are also about to send our kids back into the local schools. Sure, they are going in with masks, but they are going in…unless the Delta variant causes an outbreak and forces us back into isolation.

And nobody wants that. And that is the irony of the whole situation. It is as if we are in the water drowning, and someone wants to throw us a life-preserver. Life preservers have been around for quite some time. We know what they look like, and we know what they can do. But, instead of encouraging the person on shore to get that floatation device to us as quickly as possible, we ask a myriad of questions. Has that life-preserver been inspected? Have you checked to see if it has any foreign objects in it like razor blades or is it coated with poison? (Pause to cough up water from going under once) Is the manufacturer of that life-preserver reputable? (Pause to cough up water from going under twice) Will my enemies be able to track me down because you have inserted a homing beacon in that life-preserver? And we will question that life-preserver even though it looks just like life-preservers we have seen save thousands of lives in the past.

So, to the 60 percent of our population that has not taken the vaccine, please, seek wise counsel. Do not rely on the internet alone or your buddies who get their talking points from the internet. Talk to those in the medical profession. Seek out your family doctor. Pray about it. You wouldn’t go to a car mechanic to get advice on your stock portfolio. If you have contemplated and rejected the idea of the vaccine, please, consider it again. There has been example after example of groups of “good ol’ boys” who said they would never get the shot who have had a change of heart after one of the “good ol’ boys” in their group ended up on a ventilator in a hospital taking those last precious breaths. There is nothing wrong with standing for what you believe in. It is a free country; but standing has consequences: for you, for your family, and for your friends. I encourage you to count the cost of your actions.

Our doctors and our leaders have told us that COVID-19 is treatable and beatable. First, the treatment must be available. That mission is accomplished. To beat it, we must do our part. The treatment is no good if it sits on a shelf in a refrigerator. It is not about politics or propaganda. It is about living, dying, and quality of life.