Studio portrait of Sid Salter. (photo by Beth Wynn / © Mississippi State University)

By: Sid Salter

This weekend, I completed my 10-day Covid-19 Delta Variant quarantine period. My wife and I both were diagnosed with so-called “breakthrough cases” of the virus.

Our diagnoses came after traveling to Alaska for a family event. But there’s no way of knowing whether the exposure came on the Kenai Wilderness in rural Alaska, on board the seven-plus hour flight from Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta to Ted Stevens Airport in Anchorage, or shopping at the Walmart in Starkville the night before we departed.

The doctor called our diagnoses “breakthrough cases” – a Covid-19 diagnosis when a fully diagnosed person tests positive despite following all the vaccination protocols. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say such “breakthrough” infections are to be expected in that while the Covid-19 vaccines are highly effective in providing immunity, no vaccine is 100 percent effective.

We were both fully vaccinated with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine – first and second shots. We wore the masks until the instructions came that the fully vaccinated could relax those requirements under certain conditions. We distanced. We hunkered down and limited contact with friends and family. Although not perfectly, we did our best to follow the pandemic rules.

Then when the Delta Variant emerged, we returned to the masks. But despite those precautions, we caught that strain of Covid-19.

For both of us, the good news was as advertised – we were sick at home for several days with high fever, severe congestion, some nausea, fatigue, and a few other symptoms including loss of taste and smell. Because of my medical history, my doctor recommended that I take the Regeneron monoclonal antibody therapy (MAT) infusion.

With underlying health conditions that included a compromised immune system, I did not entertain a Covid-19 diagnosis without concern. But we did not develop severe Covid-19 symptoms that required hospitalization and all things considered, we had light cases not unlike a bad case of the flu. I credit that outcome to being fully vaccinated in advance and taking the MAT infusion when my physician directed it.

We were two of the national average daily diagnosis count of 160,901 out of some 40 million total reported cases. In Mississippi, we were two of a daily average case count of 2,746 from the total state reported cases of 446,863. Unfortunately, those numbers will increase – as will the number of deaths from Covid.

There are some realities to be accepted about the Covid-19 pandemic. First and foremost, the pandemic has been permanently and irreparably politicized. While I appreciate that fact intellectually, try as I might it just does not make sense to me that as a nation, we have chosen to fight each other over this virus rather than fighting the insidious virus.

But at both the federal and state level, it’s a fact that as yet there isn’t sufficient political will among public elected officials to make national or state vaccine or mask mandates part of any meaningful solution. There are constitutional conflicts, separation of powers issues, and debate over religious exemptions that will bog down any attempt at implementing those strategies for years.

Those realities are exacerbated by another undeniable fact – the Delta Variant is one of several mutations that will continue to make battling the pandemic very much of a moving target. Unfortunately, the science indicates that our society will be battling this scourge for some time.

So, after surviving a Covid-19 diagnosis, here’s the advice of a liberal arts major with no claimed or implied expertise in epidemiology or public health management – get fully vaccinated as soon as possible, follow the protocols for masks, distancing, handwashing, and the rest until the experts lift those protocols.

Finally, follow the advice of qualified medical professionals you know and trust, not politicians, about your health and that of your loved ones.