Will there be another COVID lockdown?
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Concerns over the COVID Delta variant are growing as the virus spreads across the United States and the world. Many Catholics want to know if their parishes will remain open, and if another lockdown is coming.
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The chances of another lockdown are growing, but still small. Instead, public officials seem focused on taking less drastic, yet effective measures, such as encouraging vaccinations and mask mandates. Still, in some hotspots, social distancing may return and some public gatherings could be canceled or restricted.
If restrictions on gatherings are reinstated, they will likely impact churches, which means Mass will move outdoors, or be canceled entirely. However, this is still a remote possibility for most.
The reason for concern is the "Delta" variant of COVID, which is much more transmissible than previous strains. Since it is even more contagious, it will naturally spread faster.
All viruses have proteins on their outer surface that act as keys. These are commonly called, "spike proteins." When a virus comes into contact with a healthy cell, the spike protein latches onto the cell and "unlocks" it. The DNA or RNA inside the virus is then injected into the cell where it enters the cytoplasm or the nucleus. The virus replicates inside the cell by various means, depending on the kind of virus it is. Many viruses replicate until the cell bursts open. In some cases, viruses are "budded" from the cell instead of bursting it open. The new viruses then go on to infect other cells and the process repeats.
COVID uses RNA to hijack a cell's systems and make copies of itself. The virus is then budded in batches from the cell. Once cell can produce hundreds of thousands of viruses. The entire process takes a matter of hours.
The Delta variant is so concerning because it is mutated from previous strains to become more infectious. It is much more capable of entering host cells.
Anyone can carry a virus in their body. This cannot be prevented by any means. However, the immune system will swiftly attack any invading germ. However, for the immune system to react, it has to recognize the germ in the first place. The problem with COVID is that it is "novel" meaning it has not been recorded by scientists before. With most novel viruses, the body does not recognize it right away. The delay in recognition allows the virus to replicate freely within a person's body for a time. This is called the "incubation period." Each time the person sneezes, exhales, or touches something, they are "shedding" the virus where it can be picked up by others. It is enough to be near a person so as to breathe in the same air they exhale. This is how most viruses spread and why masks and social distancing are so important.
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Vaccinations help by preparing the immune system to recognize a germ before it enters the body. It's like distributing a wanted poster of a criminal suspect. This allows the immune system to react immediately to a germ, and it makes a massive difference. If the immune system goes to work right away, the infection can be stopped or at least limited. It makes the difference between a sniffle and a major illness requiring hospitalization.
It should be noted that vaccines do not prevent a person from being infected, and they cannot prevent an infected person from spreading the virus. However, because the immune system is prepared for the infection, it reacts immediately. The result is that an infected person might never know they were infected. Or, if they do become sick, the illness will be minor and short-lived. This is why even vaccinated people are recommended to wear masks and practice social distancing. It is also why some vaccinated people can still become ill with COVID symptoms.
However, the vast majority of people spreading COVID and suffering are the unvaccinated.
As fall looms and schools return to in-person instruction, the Delta variant is expected to spread swiftly. Children will carry the virus home and spread it to others. Schools may require masks, but children cannot be expected to stay consistent. Therefore, a spike in cases starting in mid-to-late August should be expected.
But public officials have little appetite for another lockdown, and less for closing churches and other public spaces. However, measures are certainly coming, including a return of masks and social distancing rules. These conditions will apply to the vaccinated as well, even though they face less overall risk.
For now, bring your mask to church and wear it. Avoid person-to-person contact, and spread out in the pews. Wash your hands and use hand sanitizer. Stay home if you show any symptoms or are exposed to a person with symptoms. Try to avoid spreading the illness to your fellow parishioners or priest, he will thank you for it.
Let us pray that this variant subsides quickly and that subsequent variants are less contagious and less dangerous than Delta.
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