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While U.S. states and counties, and municipalities are enthusiastically reopening from the long COVID-19 restrictions, it may be tempting for many to pretend that the coronavirus that disrupted lives around the globe never happened. But this niggling fact remains: the pandemic is not over. State public health officials warned Monday that the danger to the unvaccinated — particularly to the nation’s children — may never have been higher.

COVID-19 delta variant. Image courtesy of WebMD

There is a growing danger from a particularly virulent form of COVID-19, called the delta variant. It is multiplying fast and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is predicting that within a month it will become the dominant form of COVID-19 in the U.S., just as has already occurred in the United Kingdom. It now accounts for one in every five COVID cases in the U.S. The CDC says that this particularly nasty form of the virus could be called “COVID on steroids”.

Colorado coronavirus cases and hospitalizations are still gradually going down statewide, but Colorado epidemiologist Rachel Herlihy said yesterday that infection rates have reversed in parts of the Western Slope and the San Luis Valley. She blamed a combination of low vaccination rates and the increased spread of the delta variant of the virus in those areas.

CDC experts say the delta variant is many times more infectious than the earlier forms of COVID, and it is showing itself to be more vicious. They add that the delta variant is putting young adults in ICUs at rates not seen before, on mechanical ventilators, and exhibiting heart problems among other symptoms.

Long-awaited hugs from our grandchildren appear once again to be possible for fully-vaccinated grandparents. But now those at highest risk are young children who cannot yet be vaccinated. Photo by Ekaterina Shakharova for Unsplash.

Herlihy said that the delta variant is at least 50 percent more contagious than earlier COVID forms such as the alpha variant. Early studies from the United Kingdom are showing that those who get the delta variant are almost twice as likely to be hospitalized, no matter their age.

The nation’s vaccination rate for eligible adults stands at less than 50 percent; we are not close to President Joe Biden’s goal of having 70 percent of eligible adults vaccinated by July 4. The great danger — the most at risk; the nation’s children ages 11 and under who cannot yet be protected by vaccination. The vaccination rates of children 12-17 — who can now be vaccinated, is lagging far behind the rates that had been expected.

As the nation rushes to reopen, to celebrate and travel and gather, as mask and social distancing mandates disappear, it is the danger to these young children that is rising. Just this past Father’s Day weekend, Farmers Markets and concert venues, splash parks and fun parks were filled with families, blithely unmasked, parents perhaps secure in the knowledge that they are vaccinated, while the children whose hands they hold, are not.

The U.S. has lost more than 605,000 souls to COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.