Thanks so much for joining this letter. This is the first delivery. I'm looking forward to building this together. Is Friday the best day to send? Feels right to me ...
The platform is still in development/experimentation stages, so this letter is relatively spare. It will eventually look nicer and be divided into segments with recurring features like "reader questions" or "long-form writing" or "how is this a real study?" so it's easy to read/find only the parts you care to. For now, almost all I can do is use bold font, italics, or underlining, which I will do.
Okay, let's rock and roll. By which I mean, let's read about science.
The strain itself is clearly concerning, for the reasons I went into; but exactly how bad things will get is less clear. It's worth taking very seriously, as this virus is unfortunately evolving in the worst direction, adapting to infect human cells much more effectively than it once did. Yesterday NPR reported that people infected by this variant have around 1,000 times more viral particles in their lungs than do people infected with the older strains. That could account for why delta spreads so readily: any given person carrying the virus could shed far more of it than people used to.
What makes the moment especially odd is that while these stories are coming out, most of the country is still doing well. Our case counts are overall still very low (though the long decline is leveling off, and numbers are increasing rapidly in a number of under-vaccinated areas). Life finally feels very nearly normal, and the long-awaited quite possibly wonderful summeris kicking off. So, what to do? TLDR: Current vaccines are so far expected to hold up—as long as you've had both doses. But I also wouldn't go testing that hypothesis by joining a windowless choir in an under-vaccinated hot spot.
Since it's up to these agencies to decide if and when drugs are beneficial and recommended, not the drug companies, I'm siding with the agencies here. But given the striking difference in protection from delta conferred by having two shots instead of one, reported Thursday in Nature, I wouldn't be surprised now if we're advised to get boosters sooner than many of us imagined would be needed.
Last week, the journal retracted the study. But not until after it circulated widely in certain circles, and somebrilliant editors resignedin disbelief. Even if you're not into virologist drama, this retraction is worth knowing about in case you see this "evidence" floating around sans mention that it's false. Which, if history is any indication, it probably will be for years.
I've been driving across the Midwest this week, so haven't been as online as usual, and I spent way too much time reading and writing about delta. Please let me know what I missed. You should be able to do that by replying to these emails in the near future but I haven't been told that feature is functional yet. So feel free to use my university email (james.hamblin at yale.edu), or click through to The Body to comment (which only works if you have a Facebook account, at least for now), or message me on a social platform of your choosing. Please send questions, critiques, observations, or any suggestions on what you'd like this letter to become.
Take care, and have a good weekend.
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