Commentary: UC Davis Study Underscores Need for Vaccines and Masks

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By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

The Delta surge is slowing going down—there were 103,785 new cases yesterday, which is still 7 to 8 times higher than it was in early July, but about 33 percent lower than it was a month ago at its peak.

California has just 17 cases per 100,000 now, second best in the country (behind Connecticut).  The highest states led by Alaska at an astounding 121 per 100,000, are primarily states that have resisted vaccines—though there are exceptions like Maine which is 69 percent fully vaccinated and still at 45 per 100,000, 13th in the nation.

Five of the top six states are below 50 percent with Alaska at 51 percent.

A new study out of the UC Davis Genome Center found no significant difference in the viral load between vaccinated and unvaccinated people who tested positive and between those with or without symptoms.

“The findings underscore the continuing need for masking and regular testing alongside vaccination, especially in areas of high prevalence,” the release noted.

“Our study adds to existing data about levels of virus in vaccine breakthroughs in two settings of high ongoing community prevalence of the delta variant,” said Professor Richard Michelmore, director of the UC Davis Genome Center.

Drilling down a bit, I found some important things to make note of.

First of all, despite breakthrough cases, you are better off being vaccinated.

Of the 49 patients who were hospitalized with COVID-19 at UC Davis Medical Center, 41 were unvaccinated.

While reassuring, it is also disconcerting.

Overall the study finds: “Vaccines have been shown to be highly effective in preventing severe disease, hospitalization and death from COVID-19.”

But “breakthrough infections where vaccinated people do become sick can occur.”

More importantly, they found “especially in areas where virus prevalence is high.”

They further note: “Although vaccinated people with a breakthrough infection are much less likely to become severely ill than unvaccinated, the new study shows that they can be carrying similar amounts of virus and could potentially spread the virus to other people.”

Further: “It’s very important to get vaccinated, Michelmore said, because vaccines greatly reduce the risk of severe disease, but you should not assume that because you are vaccinated you cannot get infected or transmit the disease to others. Mask-wearing and regular testing remain important, especially in areas of high prevalence.”

What I take away from all of this is the following.

First, there is an attitude that unvaccinated people have—this is my right to medical freedom.  As long as you and yours are getting vaccinated, what I do shouldn’t matter.

The data shows this is completely false.  Unvaccinated people are a threat to vaccinated people because they are far more likely to be infected and thus transmit the virus.

Vaccinated people do get breakthrough sickness.  They get it at a lower rate than unvaccinated people as the data show, they get it less severely than unvaccinated people as the data show, but the idea that the presence of the vaccine means either should be able to do what they want is false.

The study in fact notes that “areas where virus prevalence is high” is especially conducive to those being vaccinated getting sick shows the error of this thinking.

Moreover, the study found that the actual viral load, which correlates with ability to transmit, is pretty much the same regardless—vaccinated/unvaccinated and sick/not sick.  The only real defense then is masks and testing.  That means that the states that have tried to ban mask mandates at schools and elsewhere are going against scientific recommendations.

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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21 Comments

  1. Alan Miller

    Agree.  However the mask ship has sailed.  I go out into the world and people just don’t care.  Restaurants filled with unmasked people.  I go to a gathering and they advertise the motions, but in rooms are masked and mostly unmasked so what does it matter?  Once you get as far away as Chico or Placerville, until you hit the East Coast, no one cares (except Madison, WI on the way).  I’ve shared about my friend who was vaccinated and got very sick for 3-4 weeks (not hospitalized, but very sick).  Over the weekend I ran into a another young(40-ish)/healthy friend who was in the ICU with pneumonia from Covid-19 and is only a few weeks recovering.  It was not a situation I felt comfortable asking if she was vaccinated, though I suspect not.  Point is, no friends got Covid-19 in the original wave, and in the Delta wave three friends got it, two very sick, one hospitalized.  So I’m not celebrating or going maskless until the transmission rates back to late-June rates or lower.  I got me a P-100 that protects the wearer from the virus and wear a cloth mask over that the rare times I got into an enclosed space such as a store.  It’s an amazing feeling of freedom that is much more real than the so-called ‘medical freedom’ of those who choose not to vaccinate.  I’ve stopped yelling at the unmasked to go F themselves as I did early on when I naively believed ‘we are all in this together’.  I’m fine with not vaccinating as long as you understand that this disease has a two-week incubation period and masks are to protect others and you are a member of society and act appropriately.  Not masking indoors in a public space is another matter – selfishness, pure & simple.

    1. David Greenwald

      I don’t agree that the mask ship has sailed. I go out and most of the time people are wearing masks. Even walking down the street which doesn’t make a sense of sense.

      1. Alan Miller

        I go out and most of the time people are wearing masks.

        You go out IN DAVIS and most of the time people are wearing masks.  Try Chico.  Try Placerville.  Try pretty much the 3000 miles between the State of Jefferson and the first East Coast Metropolis you hit, save a few blue enclaves.  95% of the geography of the US is the maskless.  We live in a very unique bubble in Davis, SF, Berkeley . . . and even so compliance is down.  And what about crowded restaurants downtown with everyone ‘eating’ without masks?  The virus doesn’t care if you are eating.

        Even walking down the street which doesn’t make a sense of sense.

        Not a lick of sense – we much agree on that.  I wonder what those people walking their dog alone are thinking?

        1. David Greenwald

          Part of my point – the folks that are vaccinate ARE masking. Masks have not sailed, instead what has happened is a segment of the population apparently thinks that they don’t have to protect themselves or others or that COVID is a fraud.

        2. Alan Miller

          I have no idea what you are saying.  In Davis, yes.  We are a very small part of the country, and universal masking is not happening elsewhere except in a few blue enclaves like Berkeley, San Francisco, Madison, Asheville.  It isn’t happening elsewhere.  Why do you keep saying it is?  If most of the people aren’t masking in a store, a couple of people masking does little good.  That’s how most of the country is.

          1. David Greenwald

            I was just in Stockton, most people have masks on. When I was in Florida a few months ago, no one did.

        3. Alan Miller

          I have no idea what you are saying.  In Davis, yes.  We are a very small part of the country, and universal masking is not happening elsewhere except in a few blue enclaves like Berkeley, San Francisco, Madison, Asheville.  It isn’t happening elsewhere.  Why do you keep saying it is?  If most of the people aren’t masking in a store, a couple of people masking does little good.  That’s how most of the country is. Don’t forget a majority of Republicans are vaccinated — but I seriously doubt a majority of Republicans are masking inside public enclosed places in flyover country.

        4. David Greenwald

          What like 51 percent say they are vaccinated – so the real question is what percentage of those are masking indoors?  On the other hand, what percentage of the left do you think is masking indoors?

        5. Alan Miller

          I went to a mostly outdoor retreat sort of thingy over the weekend, and I sure wouldn’t say that most if nearly any of the people were Republicans.  I saw hardly a mask in the indoor spaces. When I called they said they were doing temperature checks (not that useful) and other protocol — but in reality no one has control over a large group of people and the only protection was avoid indoor spaces. And I never saw a temperature check — what kind of joke was that?

  2. Ron Oertel

    I got me a P-100 that protects the wearer from the virus and wear a cloth mask over that the rare times I got into an enclosed space such as a store.

    Not an expert regarding mask ratings (and additional coverings beyond that), but this sounds pretty close to having a tourniquet wrapped around your windpipe.  100% effective against the virus, though.

    It’s an amazing feeling of freedom that is much more real than the so-called ‘medical freedom’ of those who choose not to vaccinate.

    As a result of the protection you wear, this sounds pretty close to the same level of freedom that David Carradine experienced.

    1. Alan Miller

      this sounds pretty close to the same level of freedom that David Carradine experienced.

      I enjoy dark humor, but I don’t like the implication there  😐

      Anyway, P100 also helps against smoke, so I was riding my bike one day with one; I found that exercising, I indeed had to struggle to get enough air.  However, I have found no such problem walking around a store.  It’s annoying putting on two masks and they look industrial and aren’t fashion chic with designer patterns – but you know what?  You’re also the only person in the place who’s actually protecting themselves from the virus, even if the place is filled with chin diapers.

      1. Ron Oertel

        Sorry – no implication intended, other than an exaggerated expression regarding the difficulty of breathing through the level of mask protection that you described.  (Actually, any mask restricts airflow to some degree.)

        Seems like you’re more careful than most folks, and that you (indeed) may be the only one actually protecting themselves.

        Maybe not a bad idea – even to protect oneself from the flu and colds (and smoke -as you noted). I suspect that we’ll see more mask-wearing on a permanent basis.

        Sometimes, I wonder how the Native Americans survived. Of course, a lot of them did not – due to lack of immunity from diseases brought by Europeans. (But, I assume they did survive smoke.)

    2. Bill Marshall

      Alan M is VERY free… free to choose his level of risk…

      As am I… I have no problems with the current protocols, and sometimes go even more ‘protective’ when around folk face greater risks (remember, masks protect others from you, more than they protect you from others!)…

      I would have issues if Alan M demanded I follow his standards myself… but he hasn’t even requested that.

      I know a number of folk who will continue their mask use… protection from colds and flu, etc.,  even after the covid protocols are relaxed… their choice… I’d never make fun of/make snotty comments about their choices… unless they insist on imposing them on me.

      Unlike some…

      1. Ron Oertel

        I’d never make fun of/make snotty comments about their choices…

        I’d consider doing so regarding the former, but not the latter. Actually, is there a difference?

        unless they insist on imposing them on me.

        They do.  Have you not been paying attention to the mandates and the (somehow) politically-motivated arguments?

        Not necessarily anyone commenting on here – at least not directly. However, some attempt to attribute it to one political persuasion or another – with some degree of truth.

  3. Ron Oertel

    The highest states led by Alaska at an astounding 121 per 100,000,

    Actually, much lower than I would have expected.  Though I assume this only includes those who have been recently-tested.

    Of the 49 patients who were hospitalized with COVID-19 at UC Davis Medical Center, 41 were unvaccinated.

    The 8 who were vaccinated demonstrates the reason that the virus will probably never disappear (and may increasingly bypass the vaccines).

    I personally blame Darwin for discovering evolution (in this case, of viruses).

     

        1. David Greenwald

          Your article: “New COVID-19 cases are now falling across most of the country, and experts predict that the U.S. pandemic may finally be starting to peter out. While the virus may never fully disappear, it is expected to become endemic — just another less dangerous and disruptive threat that humans coexist with. “Barring something unexpected,” former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb told the New York Times earlier this week, “I’m of the opinion that this is the last major wave of infection.””

          NY TIMES lead (which is what your article is based on): “Covid-19 is once again in retreat. The reasons remain somewhat unclear, and there is no guarantee that the decline in caseloads will continue. But the turnaround is now large enough — and been going on long enough — to deserve attention. The number of new daily cases in the U.S. has fallen 35 percent since Sept. 1…”

          Gottleib was the ONLY expert who said that.

          For example: “Dr. Anthony Fauci sees a potential wave of coronavirus cases hitting the Northeast in the near future, but he suggested that it’s totally preventable.”

          I’m not saying that Fauci is right and Gottleib is wrong, only that the article you linked cherrypicked the positive and ignored the counterveiling.

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