Editorial: Want to Return to Pre-Pandemic Activities? Get Vaccinated ASAP

Editorial: Want to Return to Pre-Pandemic Activities? Get Vaccinated ASAP

The Editorial Board

   With the school year winding down and the solace of summer looming, the desire to return to pre-pandemic recreations increasingly grows. Yet, as of May 11th, the Washington State Department of Health reported 385,762 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19—101,568 of these cases in King County alone. 

     Not to put a damper on your summer plans but looking back at the New York Times’ daily COVID-tracker, the 7-day average new cases in Washington State for May 11th sits at 1,162 which is nearly four times as much as the same date in 2020 and higher than the peak of last summer. 

     Wearing masks and physically distancing significantly minimizes possible exposure to the virus; however, people who are asymptomatic for COVID-19 can still spread the disease unknowingly to friends, family, or even the stranger shopping near you at the mall.

     Take the Yankees for instance. Because the team reached the MLB’s 85% threshold, the league allowed them to loosen up on the safety measures like foregoing masks in dugouts and bullpens. Since then, eight Yankees staff, players, and coaches have tested positive. 

       However, growing evidence suggests that vaccinated people are less likely to be asymptomatically infected with COVID-19, and the situation with the Yankees is evidence of this finding. Of the eight infected, only one exhibited symptoms of COVID, so your ideal teen-flickesque summer is not entirely off the table provided you are vaccinated.

     On Wednesday, May 12th, the FDA approved administration of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine for children over the age of 12. Save for individual medical circumstances, vaccinations are now possible for all North Creek Students. Why wait to get vaccinated when securing an early slot will allow you to enjoy hikes, beach days, and small get-togethers without worrying about passing the virus on? 

     According to new CDC guidelines, vaccinated people can safely participate in pre-pandemic activities with a mask and in low-capacity outdoor activities without a mask. But, back to the Yankees example, don’t get comfortable just yet, because even though you yourself are less likely to get sick if vaccinated, you can still pass the virus on.

     We would all love the world to be as it was in October 2019, and these are the steps we have to take to get there.

     For those in the 16+ category who have yet to be vaccinated, you are not alone. Although eligibility for those over the age of 16 to receive COVID-19 vaccinations in Washington expanded on April 15th, only 57.43% of Washington residents ages 16+ have had at least one dose. In fact, only 40.72% of all Washington residents were fully vaccinated as of May 11th. 

     Ending the pandemic depends on most of the population getting vaccinated. The buzzword herd immunity refers to a population’s resistance to a disease based on the immunity of a high proportion of said population. Herd immunity is not total eradication of the virus, still, the transmission of the virus will slow when more people are vaccinated.

     To date, smallpox is the only disease that has been completely eradicated; however, as our community witnessed firsthand in 2019, other diseases, like measles, are more manageable when the vast majority of the population is vaccinated against the disease.

     While the specific percentage necessary to reach this collective milestone is highly debated, the simple conclusion is that more vaccinations will lead to fewer people catching and fewer people being hospitalized due to COVID-19. Even in the 16 days between April 26th and May 11th, 7-day average new cases dropped from 1,498 cases to 1,167 cases. 

     Despite this decrease, cases are still rife in our community. According to the Northshore School District COVID-19 Dashboard, NCHS had 19 confirmed positive cases as of May 12th. It might be logical to assume that these numbers parallel the return to in-person learning; however, while five cases come from group B, six from group A, and one from an unspecified source, the seven remaining cases belong to remote learners. 

     While North Creek’s numbers are the highest in the district, Bothell, Woodinville, and Inglemoor exemplify a similar trend of cases split between cohorts. BHS has five cases from remote learners, four from group B, and three cases from group A. By the same token, IHS has seven remote cases and three from their group B. Finally, WHS has two from group B, one from group A, and three cases from the remote group.

     Comparatively the majority of elementary and middle schools’ positive cases come from in-person students and staff.

     While age may play a factor, perhaps this trend is telling about our quarantine habits (or lack thereof) as teens. There is nothing wrong with wanting to hang out with friends—in fact, we believe and encourage you to stay connected for the sake of your social-emotional well-being and mental health. That being said, the more people you see, the more you increase your own exposure and risk the safety of others. So before you get together with friends, get vaccinated.

    This vaccine not only fights the virus but other harmful impacts of a global pandemic: loneliness, unemployment, loss of food security. Further, unlike some other immunizations, this one is free and either of the three varieties currently available in the U.S. (Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson) has high efficacy and successfully lowers the chances of hospitalization in those who did contract COVID-19.

     To set up an appointment, first, check with your healthcare provider or visit vaccinelocator.doh.wa.gov. If you have trouble finding an appointment, you can call the vaccine hotline at 1-833-VAX-HELP (833-829-4357) and press #. If you need a ride, Hopelink Mobility is offering rides to and from vaccine appointments in King County; find out more at bit.ly/vaxride.

     Ultimately, your choice is not really about being vaccinated; it’s about returning to a world where you can celebrate summer in large crowds at concerts, or chill at the pool with friends, host a cookout, or even just buying groceries without veering away from the person standing between you and your favorite ice cream. If this sounds like a world you want, you know what to do.