GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — As more people get vaccinated for COVID-19, doctors are urging people to still practice social distancing and mask wearing.
The caution is partly due to the COVID variants that we’re seeing here in Michigan and across the country.
Andrew Jameson, M.D., the Division Chief of Infectious Disease at Mercy Health, explained how viruses mutate.
He said, “Its whole goal is just to infect as many people as possible, and anytime there’s a survival benefit to a mutation, it’ll kind of select itself out.”
That’s why Dr. Jameson is asking people to take the same safety measures that we’ve been practicing for about a year.
“As you have that ongoing community spread, that’s when you actually select out those variants,” he said.
Dr. Jameson said that we can use examples from other countries to explain why herd immunity is not enough right now to keep a COVID resurgence at bay.
He explained, “There’s a really interesting case study out of Brazil that had a city that basically got to the 70 or 80% herd immunity. Everything went away, but they didn’t really lock anything down or do any prevention methods, and all of a sudden the Brazilian variant came up, which was the P1, and everyone that’s been previously infected, and theoretically immune, they started getting infected again and they had severe cases again and hospitals went out of control again.”
That rainforest city of Manaus is a sad cautionary tale Dr. Jameson thinks we can learn from.
“What it speaks to is why do we still need to be careful? Why do we still need to unfortunately mask for a little while even if you’ve been vaccinated, and why vaccines are not just a ticket to freedom, because really we need to let our overall community get to a low enough level that we don’t have ongoing community spread,” he explained.
According to the MDHHS, so far in Michigan, more than 150 cases of the U.K. B.1.1.7 variant have been found across 12 counties.