As millions will gather for the 4th of July weekend, health care workers worry about the Delta variant

Some health care workers are frustrated over the level of vaccinations
Published: Jul. 2, 2021 at 6:48 PM CDT
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Young adults walking on a major street.
Young adults walking on a major street.(Source: WVUE)

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Millions of Americans will gather over this 4th of July weekend even as health care professionals express growing concerns over the Delta variant of the coronavirus which is spreading across the country. Meanwhile, some frontline health care workers are frustrated over the level of people who remain unvaccinated.

Dr. Julio Figueroa who is LSU Health’s Chief of Infectious Diseases talked about the increasing prevalence of the highly contagious variant.

“I am concerned, not surprised, and that’s because that’s exactly what has been predicted in other areas, so that Delta variant is very transmissible, pretty contagious and you have a situation where folks are getting together without masks and so that ability to transmit plus a vulnerable population that hasn’t been vaccinated, you would anticipate that it would become the predominant strain which is what is happening,” said Figueroa.

On the streets of New Orleans some residents voiced measured concern related to the Delta variant.

“Only in terms of another lockdown,” said a woman with a mask who did not want her name used.

Joy Martin sat outside a coffee shop. She is unvaccinated and happy to be so.

“I’m not,” she said.

The Delta variant is very contagious says public health officials and it proved to be very deadly in India. The Delta variant accounts for at least 25% of new COVID-19 cases in the United States.

Martin says she feels safe going without a mask. She says the pandemic has not changed her lifestyle.

“I am comfortable, and I feel safe without wearing a mask. I take immune boosters, yep, watch what I eat, kind of keep my immune system at a level, a high level,” said Martin.

And in areas with low vaccination rates local and federal health officials say the variant can spread even easier.

“So that ability to transmit plus a vulnerable population that hasn’t been vaccinated, you would anticipate that it would become the predominant strain which is what is happening,” said Figueroa.

He was asked what that portends for Louisiana and some other states that are below 50% in terms of vaccination rates.

“It means that we’re going to be seeing more COVID cases and we’re already starting to see that somewhat in town, in our practice here,” said Figueroa.

And he said many of those contracting the virus locally are young.

“We are seeing folks who are not vaccinated coming in with significant enough symptoms to be admitted and they tend to be people obviously not vaccinated, but they tend to be younger as well. So that sort of invincible 20-and 30-somethings are not so invincible, at least many of them are coming in,” said Figueroa.

As coronavirus cases tick up in some areas, it is causing frustration among some health care workers around the country.

The New York Times reports that doctors and nurses who are already stressed and burned out due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic—feel unappreciated as pleas for people to get vaccinated are going unheeded in many areas of the country.

And on Twitter, someone identifying as Dr. Susan wrote in response to the NYT‘s article, “Mask mandates lifted no wonder HCW’s feel disrespected.”

Still not all health care workers support being vaccinated. Recently in Texas, 150 health care workers in the Houston Methodist Hospital System made headlines after they refused to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Dr. Tanya Busenlener, a pediatrician and co-President of the Medical Association of Southeast Louisiana says “it is a little frustrating that the number of vaccinated people is so low given the strong evidence that it actually does work.

However, she says she sees every patient encounter as an opportunity to educate her patients and their parents and she feels she is having an impact.

Martin says pleas aside, she will not get any of the vaccine shots.

“No, no, not at all,” she said.

As lots of people will be gathering this weekend, Figueroa has concerns about the unmasked getting together indoors.

“I am concerned about a lot of indoor activities without masking, I think that, that is something to be avoided as much as possible; the fortunate thing is that our traditions at 4th of July tend to be outdoors and so it’s a little bit better from that standpoint but try to maintain as much social distancing that’s able to be done in that sort of scenario,” he said.

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