COVID-19 Delta Variant Updates

United States

Based on the most recent available data from the CDC, currently just over 20% of all COVID-19 cases in the U.S. are due to the Delta variant. About a month ago, only about 3% of reported cases were due to the Delta variant. While this may be in part due to the fact that not all tests are sent to see what specific variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 the case is due to, the increase is in line with predictions that the Delta variant will be the dominant variant in the upcoming weeks or months. In addition, Dr. Fauci has stated that the Delta variant is the greatest threat to all of the efforts thus far in curbing the COVID-19 variant. Data thus far shows that almost all new hospitalizations and/or deaths due to COVID-19 have been in those unvaccinated. 

International Outbreaks

Internationally, the Delta variant has caused great concern as well. A recent outbreak of 125 cases of COVID-19 in Israel, the highest number of cases in over two months, has led to reinstating public health measures including mask wearing indoors in that country. 70% of the cases were reportedly due to the Delta variant. Israel has one of the world’s highest proportion of its population vaccinated, and while COVID-19 vaccines are very effective, they are not 100% effective, and they are less effective against the Delta variant than the original strain of the virus. In addition, public health officials in India have raised concern about a sub-lineage of the Delta variant, currently named Delta Plus. This variant has also been identified in at least a dozen other countries thus far including the U.S. The officials reported that this variant of the Delta variant is likely even more transmissible than the Delta variant and have pushed to continue to ramp up vaccination efforts in the country.

World Health Organization Urges Precautions

All of the most recent data regarding the Delta variant has been a significant cause of concern. This past Friday, the World Health Organization urged fully vaccinated people to still continue to wear masks, social distance, practice proper hand hygiene, and follow any additional public health measures. Dr. Simao, the WHO Assistant Director-General for Access to Medicines and Health Products, not only suggested that people continue to follow public health measures, but that “vaccines alone will not stop community transmission of the virus.” 

Get Vaccinated!

As COVID-19-related public health measures are relaxed in the United States, it is even more important to get vaccinated. Data shows that while they are not 100% effective in preventing COVID-19 and are less effective in preventing infection from the Delta variant, vaccines are still effective and our best chance to stop the spread of the variant and prevent future variants. In addition, we recommend that individuals still wear masks, socially distance, practice proper hand hygiene, and follow other public health guidelines to mitigate transmission, especially if you are unsure if those you are around are vaccinated or not. If you have any additional questions, please feel free to reach out to us or to your primary health care providers.

More information:

LGBTQ+ People of Color Face Disproportionate Rates of Discrimination 

This week, a group of researchers from Cornell University, the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC), the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), the National LGBTQ Task Force, and Freedom for All Americans (FFAA) released a brief showing that LGBTQ+ people of color face disproportionate rates of discrimination across many sectors and have worse health outcomes. The intersection of racism and anti-LGBTQ+ dicrimination has serious and harmful effects on the health and well-being of LGBTQ+ people of color, who compose 42% of the LGBTQ+ population. The report showed that LGBTQ+ people of color were 38% more likely to be discriminated against than white LBGTQ+ individuals. Additionally, the majority of Black LGBTQ+ individuals in the United States live in the south, more than twice of any other region, and this is where most states lack anti-LGBTQ+ discimintation laws and policies. States that allow denial of service based on LGBTQ+ status were linked to a 46% increase of mental distress in LGBTQ+ individuals. A myriad of studies have shown that anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination increases the risk of poor mental and physical health. Black LGB adults are 40% more likely to have made a suicide attempt than white LGB adults. In younger populations, 31% of LGBTQ+ Native/Indigenous youth, 21% Black LGBTQ+ youth and, 18% of Latinx LGBTQ+ youth have attempted suicide compared to 12% of white LGBTQ+ youth. The rate of self harm is also increased for LGBTQ+ students who experience discrimination based on multiple social identities. While all of these rates are dismal, there are protective measures that have been found to help. These include: anti-discrimination policies, social support, access to affirmiative mental health and social services, practioner training, societal confrontation of negative stereotypes and norms around LGBTQ+ populations, and interventions designed to build resilience and disrupt negative coping mechanisms. Confronting racism and anti-LGBTQ+ discimintation is a matter of life and death. Without it, we will continue to disportionately harm Black, Indigenous, People of Color in the LGBTQ+ community.  

More information:

Impacts of COVID-19 Pandemic on LGBT+ Youths

A new report from Just Like Us, an LGBT+ young people's charity in the UK, provides important insights into the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on LGBT+ youth. Among the findings:

LGBT+ Young People Overall

Transgender Young People

Black LGBT+ Young People

Lesbian Young People

Bisexual Young People

Disabled LGBT+ Young People

More information:

Derek Chauvin Sentenced to 22.5 Years in Prison for Killing George Floyd

On Friday, Derek Chauvin, the police officer who killed George Floyd last year, was sentenced to 22 and a half years in prison by Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill. Chauvin is still waiting to be arraigned on federal charges, as well as a separate use of force case from 2017, and may therefore face additional prison time. Three other officers involved in George Floyd's killing are also still awaiting their dates in state and federal court.

More information:

ACLU of Michigan Files Lawsuit Against Michigan State Police

On Wednesday, the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan filed a lawsuit on behalf of Camara Sankofa and Shanelle Thomas against the director and troopers of the Michigan State Police (MSP). The couple was falsely accused of running a red light and were detained for two hours while police searched their car for drugs. The lawsuit asserts that the troopers used a computer system malfunction as a way to bring two different K-9 units in to search the vehicle the couple was in, even though there was no evidence of the couple having drugs on them. The ACLU states that the couple’s experience is similar to thousands of experiences of Black individuals in Michigan and that MSP has failed to correct policies and practices that lead to racial profiling and discimination. MSP released a statement that the department is committed to equitable treatment and providing services in a non-discriminatory manner to all residents and that there are policies in place to prevent officers from stopping anyone solely based on race or ethnicity. The ACLU has been hearing similar complaints since 2016 and has met with the director of MSP to alert him of the issue. MSP has recently reported that while overall traffic stops have decreased between 2017 and 2019, stops for Black individuals have increased and are disproportionate to the Black population in Michigan. This is not unique to Michigan. Nationally, Black drivers are stopped more often than white drivers. This is especially concerning knowing that Black individuals are more likely to experience police brutality than white individuals. Being racially profiled in a traffic stop can lead to more drastic outcomes that are incredibly harmful and unnecessary. 

More information: 

More than 750 Unmarked Graves Found at Former Marieval Indian Residential School in Canada

751 unmarked graves have been found on the grounds of the former Marieval Indian Residential School in Canada, and excavations are ongoing to determine the total number of bodies. This horrific find is separate from the discovery of the remains of 215 children at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in Canada earlier this month. After the discovery at Kamloops, investigations and excavations began at a number of former residential schools where Indigenous children who were forcibly separated from their families and subjected to abuse in an attempt to "assimilate" them. Like Kamloops, Marieval was run by the Catholic Church. The Marieval site is being treated as a crime scene: Cowessess First Nation Chief Cadmus Delorme said that the graves may have once been marked with headstones but that "Catholic Church representatives removed these headstones," which is a crime in Canada.

The institutions were part of a system of boarding schools in the U.S. and Canada that forcibly separated indigenous children from their parents, families, and communities in an attempt to “assimilate” them and eliminate indigenous cultures. This system is not a relic of the distant past: It wasn't until 1978 that Native American parents gained the legal right to refuse having their children taken from them and being forcibly being put into boarding schools in the U.S., and the Canadian Indian residential school system continued until 1996. Schools were established largely by Christian churches and missionaries intent on converting children to Christianity and indoctrinating them into rejecting their indigenous identity and culture and turning them away from traditional practices, beliefs, cultures, and languages. They were founded on the racist belief that indigenous cultures were fundamentally inferior to that of the colonizers (i.e., White, European, Christian cisheteropatriarchy), that they were inherently sinful against Christian views, and that the only way to "save" the children was to keep them away from their family and community, deny them access to their traditional and ancestral culture, history, language, and beliefs, "civilize" them by making them fit into the White, Christian cisheteropatriarchy, and having them reject their family, ancestral culture, and indigenous identity. The schools were also rife with continuous and systematic physical, mental, and sexual abuse of children.

Despite the claims that this was done in order to "civilize" Indigenous people, it was itself among the most inhumane policies in the history of either country. It amounted to nothing less than attempted cultural genocide, and it was largely successful in many of its goals. There is no way to estimate the amount of traditional knowledge and culture that was lost and cannot be regained (particularly as many aspects of indigenous cultures are passed down orally, and with no children to pass the information down to, it died with the elders), nor is there any way to reverse the impact on the lives of those forced into the boarding schools, their families, or their descendents. The trauma is generational.

More information:

MSU Will Not Require COVID-19 Vaccines for Those On Campus in the Fall

Michigan State University announced this week that it would not require students, faculty, or staff on campus in the fall semester to be vaccinated against COVID-19. This decision ignores last month's resolution by the University Council (made up of members of the Faculty Senate, Associated Students of MSU, Council of Graduate Students, and a variety of other faculty, staff, student, and executive groups), which voted in favor of mandatory vaccinations for those on campus. The decision not to require vaccinations will put students and employees at risk. Nearly half of the state is unvaccinated, the Delta Variant is rapidly becoming dominant (it is more contagious and deadly, and current vaccines are less effective against it), and the school will have students and faculty arriving from around the state, country, and world. Executive Vice President for Health Sciences Norman Beauchamp stated that the school will require unvaccinated people to wear masks indoors, but that MSU would rely on an "honor code" (i.e., vaccination status will not be verified, and instead "people will be expected to be truthful in their statement about having had vaccinations"). Due to HIPAA, students' vaccination status will not be shared with their instructors, which, combined with not mandating that they be vaccinated, may put their instructors' and fellow students’ lives at risk, particularly those instructors and students who cannot be vaccinated due to medical conditions and those who are immunocompromised (which may make vaccines less effective or ineffective).

More information:

Myocarditis Linked with COVID-19 Vaccination 

According to the CDC, as of June 21, 2021, there have been 616 reports of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart) or pericarditis (inflammation of the tissue lining the heart) in people ages 30 and younger who have received the COVID-19 vaccine. Most of these cases have been after receiving either the Pfizer or the Moderna vaccine and have been mostly in male adolescents and young adults. Through follow up research, the CDC and FDA have confirmed 393 of these cases of myocarditis or pericarditis thus far. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices also met to discuss the cases, conduct risk-benefit analyses, and provide further recommendations. Currently, the benefits continue to greatly outweigh the risks and the CDC still recommends that individuals 12 years old and older still get vaccinated. The cases of myocarditis have been extremely rare, with current estimates stating about 32 cases of myocarditis per 1 million doses of vaccine in males. This is in comparison to the benefits of the vaccines. For example, for males ages 18-24 years, for every 1 million doses of vaccine, 12,000 cases of COVID-19 are prevented, as well as 530 hospitalizations, 127 ICU admissions, and 3 deaths. In addition, those who did experience myocarditis or pericarditis thus far have responded well to treatment and recovered. If you are concerned or have any other questions, please feel free to reach out to us or to your primary health care provider. In the meantime, the CDC as put on their website (linked below) to be on the lookout for the following symptoms for myocarditis or pericarditis post vaccination:

More information:

This Week's QM Round-Up Contributors (in alphabetical order):