IRC making vaccination progress but masks still needed

commentary

milt thomas

After a shaky start, Indian River County is now doing well vaccinating its citizens against the COVID-19 coronavirus. We can all feel a sense of relief, joy even, that we have a handle on the virus and can start to see a day when life will return to pre-coronavirus normal.

Image courtesy of Airport Technology

But that day is not today, for these reasons:

1. Over 33,500 people have been fully vaccinated. Over 11,500 total cases of the virus have been reported since the first case a year ago. The full-time population of Indian River County is about 150,000. Population (Herd) immunity can be attained at some point after more than half the population has either had the virus or received the vaccine. That number is theoretical at this point but is believed to be 50-75 percent (herd immunity from measles requires 95 percent and polio is 80 percent). Even if it is only 50 percent, we are still a long way off from that number.

2. Face masks, while not 100 percent effective, are the best proven protection against inhaling the virus or spreading it to other people. County residents are advised to continue wearing masks and social distancing until that herd immunity is achieved, in other words, there are few if any new cases.

3. The coronavirus can find ways to mutate into a potentially more contagious and virulent form if herd immunity is not achieved. The 1918 Spanish flu at first sickened millions of people but with few deaths, but because no vaccine existed, it developed a mutation that proceeded to kill millions. The mutation currently spreading in Florida is known to be more contagious than the earlier forms.

3. We are currently in a race to vaccinate amajority of people before the virus mutates further in a more deadly form. The greatest obstacles to achieving herd immunity are the number of people who refuse to wear masks and/or refuse to be vaccinated.

The most commonly quoted reason for not wearing a mask or refusing the vaccine is that in infringes on personal freedom.  However, personal freedom in the coronavirus pandemic extends only three to six feet from your body. Then it infringes on everyone else’s personal freedom.

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