It has been a while since I have written about the virus. I have been busy with publishing my book, The Flight of a Wild Duck, and I have not had a lot to say. However, the situation with the Delta virus has caused me to reengage. So, here are some of my thoughts. Please take my remarks as being my opinions and not as facts. There is a lot of misinformation out there, and I don’t want to contribute to the noise.
The Delta virus is twice as infectious as the original alpha variant. We should all be thankful that we started with the alpha. Viruses all mutate. Generally, there will be a mutation for every 100 million cases. RNA virus mutates faster than DNA virus. Successful mutations have high infection rates than the ones prior to the mutation. It is a positive loop. The higher the rate of infection, the more people infected and the more mutations. But it is not the number of people infected that matters. It is the number of viruses produced by those that are infected. So those having a high viral load will have a great chance to produce mutations than those with a low viral load.
The PCR test was developed to determine if someone is infected. But the infection means that one has some amount of a virus present. While it would be possible to categorize the amount of disease present in the nasal passage, this is not regularly reported—one of the factors that predict how infectious someone is is the amount of viral load they have.
)Being vaccinated does not prevent a person from getting the virus in their nasal passage, for example. But does affect how the body responds to the virus. People who have been fully vaccinated can test positive for the virus but not have any symptoms. However, recent studies in Israel (I check today with someone who knows) indicate that people who are fully vaccinated but have no symptoms can infect others. If they infect people that are fully vaccinated, those people will probably not have any symptoms, but some portion of them can infect others as well. People who are not vaccinated can get infected by someone fully vaccinated; they can become seriously ill and even die. In a country like Israel, where I live most of the time, it is unlikely as the overwhelming majority of people have been vaccinated.
Like many countries, Israel requires travelers to have a PCR test before flying to Israel. But they also need a PCR once they arrive. One of my Hebrew teachers (we study via zoom) had a negative PCR when flying to Israel. Then she had to stand in line for 90 minutes with many others crowding her to get a second PCR test. A few days later, she came down with the virus and had symptoms. She had not been vaccinated because she lived in a European country and was too young to get vaccinated. Forcing people to stand together at the airport to get a PCR test is insane, in my opinion. My contact at the Ministry of Health recently told me that one flight from Russia had 200 people that tested positive. Once only has to wonder how many they infected while waiting to take a PCR test.
I don’t think that administrating the PCR test does much. The critical thing is to get everyone vaccinated. If you test people flying into a country, you will miss many people that have the virus but do not have enough virus to test positive at that time. However, you will find people that test positive but will not develop symptoms. These people may be forced into quarantine or denied the ability to fly to a country.
At some point, we have to say that if you can get a vaccination and choose not to get it, it is on you if you get ill. It works in places like Israel with high vaccination rates since the chances that the hospital system will be overrun are low. In areas where the vaccination rate is low, mitigation like masks and social distancing are needed.
While I don’t think PCR tests are beneficial as a screen device, I don’t have a big issue with them being required to take a flight, although they can result in some people not being able to fly. In some cases as in Seychelles, Israelis that were fully vaccinated tested positive and were forced into 14 quarantine, needlessly in my opinion.
While vaccinated people can be contagious, my gut tells me they are much less virulent than nonvaccinated people. This needs to be studied. There is so much to be learned.
As someone who has been fully vaccinated since last December and has had a test for antibodies (I have a lot of them), I am personally not worried. However, I will start wearing a mask again in places with a high number of infections, such as Los Angeles. It does not hurt.