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EDITORIAL: Numbers continue to show the power of vaccines

The CDC’s new mask guidance — quickly adopted for Nevada by Gov. Steve Sisolak — implies that the vaccinated are now spreading the virus to their unvaccinated brethren. Yet the CDC downplays this. “Vaccinated individuals represent a very small amount of transmission occurring around the country,” the agency notes.

One can imagine the CDC fomenting confusion with this new advice and perhaps discouraging vaccinations. What’s the point, some might say, if I still must abide by various restrictions? But that would be a mistake. Regardless of mask rules, the news about vaccinations remains highly encouraging. Some facts to consider:

■ As of early last week, 161 million Americans — about 69 percent of U.S. adults — had been fully vaccinated. Among that population, the CDC had received reports of just 5,914 COVID-related hospitalizations or deaths. That amounts to 1 out of every 27,223 adults. According to the National Weather Service, the average American’s chance of being struck by lightning during an 80-year lifespan is 1 in 15,300.

■ The CDC reports that, for the vaccinated, the risk of infection is about 3.5-fold lower, the risk of illness from the coronavirus is more than eightfold lower and the risk of hospitalization or death is about 25-fold lower. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said this month that 97 percent of people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 are unvaccinated. Virtually all COVID deaths today are among the unvaccinated.

■ According to National Geographic, researchers found this month that out of nearly 4,000 U.S. “healthcare workers, first responders and frontline workers who got regular nose swabs, there were 204 infections. Only five of those who got sick — or 2.4 percent — had been fully vaccinated.”

If the above numbers aren’t convincing enough, consider one more: Case rates are now surging back to levels from a year ago, yet the CDC notes that deaths are down more than 70 percent from that point. That’s because vaccines are working to prevent severe illness and death.

There are also signs that the highly contagious delta variant may hit a wall. Cases in the United Kingdom, which opened fully on July 19, have been falling precipitously for a week. “U.S. research firm Fundstrat highlighted that the U.K.’s delta surge peaked after around 45 days,” CNBC reported Wednesday, “similar to the 50-day mark seen in India.” If the same holds true in the United States, the ongoing leap in case counts may abate in coming weeks. We can hope.

In the meantime, amping up the vaccinations remains key.

“Vaccination is what basically eradicated measles and came close to eradicating polio,” Robert Darnell, a physician scientist at New York’s Rockefeller University, told the National Geographic. “We could do the same thing here with COVID. We could be done with this.” Amen.

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