Here’s hoping you and your family and friends had a fun, festive and unfettered Fourth. After the parades and fireworks, now imagine a thousand brush fires erupting in hot spots around the country. Imagine a national fire department sending teams into communities to quell the flames.
You don’t have to imagine. As the July 4 holiday approached, the federal government mobilized “surge response” teams to go into counties vulnerable to COVID-19 outbreaks. These are counties with a tinderbox combination of low vaccination rates (less than 30% fully vaccinated) and potentially high exposure to the Delta coronavirus variant, the latest SARS-CoV-2 “variant of concern.” More transmissible and potentially more troublesome than its predecessors, Delta now accounts for more than half of new COVID-19 infections nationally.
The response teams have an assignment, and they choose to accept it: get people vaccinated, distribute medicines and help with contact tracing. In the vanguard of this effort, a team from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention arrived in Mesa County, Colorado at the end of June to investigate how and why Delta is spreading in the western part of the state.
Although we did not meet the July 4 goal of getting at least one COVID-19 shot into the arms of 70% of American adults nationally—we made it to 67%—we are now going to double down on the mission and focus on trouble spots locally. President Biden is looking to…