Dear Residents of Box Elder, Cache, and Rich Counties,
Well-meaning and intelligent individuals and organizations have struggled to predict outcomes throughout this pandemic. I share this not to point out the flaws of others but to demonstrate how multifactorial and complex this pandemic has and continues to be. Unfortunately, the struggle of grappling with complexities is too often abandoned for the ease and comfort of speaking in absolutes. For that reason, I am not going to talk in absolutes, but I will speak honestly. In the end, whether you agree or disagree with me, I hope that you will at least accept the sincerity of my intent, which is nothing more than to protect health and prevent death.
Research has indicated that the dose or amount of virus an organism is exposed to is strongly correlated to both infection and severity of the disease. The Delta Variant of COVID-19 has shown increased replication rates, leading to increased viral load and decreased incubation period, resulting in increased transmission and infection rates within the population. Therefore, one plausible way to reduce both infections and the severity of illness in our community is to promote reasonable measures that can significantly decrease the viral load across the community. Here are three recommendations and the supporting reasons for those recommendations. I would ask everyone in our community to give them serious consideration as we individually and collectively continue to face the challenges posed by COVID-19.
If Eligible, Consider Getting Vaccinated Against COVID-19
I am encouraged that most eligible individuals in our communities have chosen to be vaccinated against COVID-19. With over 167 million individuals fully vaccinated in the US, these vaccines have been shown to be safe for most individuals. Furthermore, being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 appears to decrease the likelihood of infection by 8 fold, reduce the chance of hospitalization by 25 fold, and decrease the chance of death by 25 fold. Even individuals previously infected with COVID-19 are less likely to get reinfected after being fully vaccinated. No vaccination is 100% effective or 100% risk-free, but then again, neither is the outcome if we end up contracting an infectious disease such as COVID-19. Breakthrough cases do occur. Still, most covid infections are not occurring in vaccinated individuals. In the end, each of us must do a risk assessment based on our own individual values and judgments.
Consider Wearing a Mask in Public Places, Including Schools
The COVID-19 virus initially infects the mucus membranes of the nose and surrounding area, while the COVID-19 vaccine generates immunity through antibodies in the bloodstream. Because of this, the vaccines do not confer a “sterilizing immune response” that completely prevents viral infection and replication. This is why even fully vaccinated individuals exposed to the virus may become vectors even if they never exhibit symptoms. For this reason, we recommend masking in public indoor places despite individual vaccination status. Epidemiological investigations worldwide have suggested a strong relationship between public masking and the reduction in the spread of the virus. There is also evidence that widespread masking can decrease the viral dose during exposure leading to a subsequent decrease in the severity of illness. Unfortunately, 25% of our population (ages 0-11) are currently ineligible to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Continued community masking will also help to protect this population until a vaccine becomes available to them. At which point, they and their families can decide whether or not to be vaccinated.
Do All You Can to Stay Home When Sick, Except to Seek Testing or Medical Care
This advice is not new to COVID. Staying home not only slows the spread of disease in our community, but rest is critical to individual recovery from illness. However, we recognize that this is easier said than done. Everyone has different situations with differing demands. For those for whom this recommendation is difficult, we encourage you to reach out to family, friends, employers, and community-based or faith-based organizations to see if they might assist you during your recovery. However, never delay seeking medical attention when needed.
If followed, I truly believe that these recommendations can help protect health and prevent death in our community. I believe that sound scientific data supports these recommendations. I wouldn’t be offering them to you if I felt otherwise. I just ask that you give them serious consideration. I respect that some will disagree with me and these recommendations, and that is okay. Right now, we not only have a pandemic of disease raging in our communities, but we also have a pandemic of division and hate that is just as contagious and equally as destructive to mental and emotional health. We need to stop criticizing one another based on “mask” or “no mask,” “vaccine” or “no vaccine” and learn to respect and care for one another despite our differences. We need to aspire to live the motto of this great nation, E Pluribus Unum — Out of many, one. In doing so, I believe we can collectively conquer this pandemic and come out of it as stronger and better people.
Jordan D. Mathis
Bear River Health Department
If you have questions regarding COVID-19 or this statement, please call the Bear River Health Department at 792-6500.