stepping gently, looking two times north and south

Letters #158 (in which I implore you to immediately take the Delta variant seriously)

We're not going to be able
to live in this world
if we're not willing to do what he's doing
with one another.

The road will only be wide.
The rain will never stop falling.

-Naomi Shihab Nye, Shoulders

R is three-and-three-quarters this month, a fact she carries around like a badge of honor, and one that in our lives has signified a very thorough entrenchment in The Why Phase. Over the last six weeks or so she's gone from accepting our first answers to digging deep into the details of her questions until she gets to a point where we can't find answers. When we suggest she should do something, her response is an innocent (but nevertheless instinctively frustrating) "why should I?" The emphasis changes according to the situation: "why should I" means something clearly different from "why should I" or "why should I." She wants so deeply to understand everything in her world, and that’s starting to include a real curiosity about other people. She wants to talk to neighbors, and play with other kids at the park, and it’s hard to explain that we could do those things earlier in the summer, but things are different and we can’t anymore. 

I know you and most people in my life are sick of the way I can't get my teeth out of this subject, but if you haven't already noticed that things are getting bad again, please check in. I'm not exaggerating when I say I'm convinced that, even though death rates will likely be relatively low, in terms of infections and long-term disabling outcomes, I really believe this fall will be the worst part of the pandemic so far in North America. In terms of disease, it's going to be hardest on the unvaccinated, which includes all the kids under 12 on the planet, along with the refusers and the hesitant and the unable among adults. In terms of social consequences, the burden is going to continue to be carried overwhelmingly by children and their parents, especially their mothers, and by marginalized people.

If you're not yet vaccinated and can be, I trust that you waited for a reason that mattered to you, but now is the time. The vaccines are working, and they're protecting both the vaccinated, by drastically reducing the risk of infection, severe disease, and death, and those who aren't, by reducing the number of potential exposure points. The headlines have been extremely discouraging, but the actual numbers in terms of whether and to what extent vaccinated people can transmit Covid, even with Delta, are miraculously good. They're not perfect, but they're very, very good. 

If you are vaccinated, or if you can't be, adding additional layers of protection like masks, only gathering outdoors, and keeping safe distancing help further protect you from both illness and acting as a vector by reducing your number of exposures. The fewer virus particles we can all encounter, the better any given measure works. We can keep our vulnerable community members safer by combining protective measures. And whether those are people who are willfully unvaccinated by choice who frustrate you, or people who want to be vaccinated but can't be, or who are vaccinated but whose bodies don't retain immunity, it doesn't really matter. Protecting ourselves and each other is the only way through. 

I'm including below a few very readable resources from recent coverage. These are not scientific papers (if you want those, let me know), but they're good summaries from sources I trust. If you've been on the fence, please take a minute with them, and if you're still not convinced, well, let me know why. I can't promise I won't be frustrated, but I'll try to hear you out.

And finally: