Medical experts are closely monitoring the latest surge in COVID-19 cases as the highly-contagious delta variant rages across the nation. Along with the rapid rise of positive tests, there is a worrying increase in the number of people who require hospitalization.
Tragically, much of this surge is preventable. According to the CDC, in the U.S., 97% of COVID hospitalizations and 99% of deaths are currently among unvaccinated people. CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky has even called this latest rise in numbers the ‘pandemic of the unvaccinated.’
“The vast majority of people who are becoming infected with COVID now are unvaccinated,” agrees William Isenberg, M.D., Ph.D., Sutter Health’s Chief Quality and Safety Officer.
Gary Green, M.D., an infectious disease specialist with Sutter Medical Group of the Redwoods in Santa Rosa, Calif., says he’s seeing an uptick of COVID hospitalizations again. What’s different about this latest wave, he says, is the deep sense of regret he hears from patients about being reluctant or resistant to getting the vaccine.
“It’s hard because with all this regret, I see these patients in the ICU who are struggling to breathe and some struggling to survive. It’s doubly tragic because now we have vaccine and it’s readily available. We just need everyone to get it,” says Dr. Green.
Both Dr. Isenberg and Dr. Green strongly encourage people to get vaccinated now if they aren’t already. They also encourage people to talk to reluctant family and friends about getting the jab as well. If someone is still feeling unsure, they advise people to talk to their doctor. The good news is that in the U.S., unlike in many countries around the globe, safe and highly effective vaccine is available to all people 12 and older, free of charge.
For more about COVID vaccine, see the CDC website’s list of Frequently Asked Questions.
Masks are (Still) Key
Dr. Isenberg says until vaccination rates are much higher, in order to slow the spread, people should mask up when they’re in public and indoors regardless of their vaccination status.
He also encourages people to follow CDC guidance—which, in addition to recommending wearing masks indoors in public spaces, recommends staying six feet apart from people who do not live in your household, avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces, washing hands often, covering coughs and sneezes and cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces daily.
“Coupled with infection prevention protocols, vaccination is the most effective measure we can take to move beyond this pandemic,” says Dr. Isenberg. “I remain hopeful that we can resume some semblance of normalcy in the not-so-distant future, but it won’t happen without significantly higher vaccination rates across our area.”
For more information on vaccination through Sutter Health, visit our COVID-19 Vaccine Resources page.