Dr. Andrew Hodges takes a moment between patients at HealthPointe Primary Care to attempt to ease the minds of folks concerned with COVID.
“The delta variant is certainly circulating,” said Hodges. “It seems quite a bit more contagious than the “OG” virus (we call it the “wild type”) on the order of two-to-three times more communicable.”
Hodges adds that the good news is it seems to be no more deadly than the wild type.
“In fact, looking at worldwide data, it seems to slightly, but significantly, less deadly,” he said. “Again, though, there is a danger gradient.”
He said it affects the older population in terms of its severity. Sixty years old and older seem to be the high-risk group, especially with comorbid conditions like obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes.
“This is in contrast to the 18 and younger population, where there are still less deaths due to COVID than the 2017-2018 flu season,” said Hodges.
Hodges said he’s spent the last few days doing a massive literature review regarding masks, and the results are mixed, at best. His study comes a week after the Scottsboro City Board of Education voted down a mask mandate in the school system.
“Suffice it to say, there is absolutely no data that fully supports mask mandates, especially in schools,” said Hodges. “Obviously, masks are some benefit in healthcare settings. However, there simply is no consistent data that mask mandates make any difference whatsoever, at least any difference above optional mask wearing.”
Hodges said his opinion on masks is the traditional viewing still holds strong.
“If you have symptoms, wear a mask out in public if you can’t stay home,” he said. “If you are taking care of someone sick, wearing one won’t hurt, but don’t be surprised if you get the illness, too, even while wearing a mask.”
Hodges said vaccinations are great, highly effective in preventing severe disease and death.
“This has truly become a pandemic of the unvaccinated people who have never had COVID,” he said. “If you are 45 and above, I highly recommend getting this. If you are 20-45, I suggest doing a personal risk calculation with your physician to see if the vaccination is right for you, weighing risks and benefits.”
Hodges added that if you have never had COVID and you don’t have any problems with vaccinations, it’s not a bad idea to get the vaccine.
“There is not a small amount of controversy over kids getting the vaccine,” said Hodges. “Many physicians say ‘absolutely,’ while others have some reservations. For example, the rate of myocarditis (heart inflammation) is around one in every 5,000 kids vaccinated. While that is rare, it’s not so rare that you need to discredit it. I personally do not practice pediatrics, so I leave that to the professionals of that field, including family medicine, to give the final recommendations on that.”
Hodges said he doesn’t believe the lockdowns a year ago were helpful, adding they were more harmful.
“If you look at the states who had hardcore lockdowns vs. ‘open’ states, the age-matched data shows the lockdowns disproportionately affected poor people,” he said. “Poor people in lockdown states fared far worse not only in COVID-related illness, but also economically. This is contrast to, for example, Florida where COVID-related illness and economic hardship was, believe it or not, spread rather equally amongst the socioeconomic classes.”
Hodges said he truly believes we are reaching herd immunity.
“I do not believe we need to cower in fear, but I also believe we need to be wise,” he said. “If you are having symptoms, call your doctor, wear a mask around others, wash your hands and stay hydrated. If you are positive, there are early treatment options available. If you are negative, well then, Roll Tide. Wear a mask if you want, don’t if you don’t want to, unless you have symptoms.”
Hodges asks people not to engage in vaccine and mask shaming.
“We don’t need that level of divisiveness in our community,” he said. “Please show a little grace for the hesitancy of people to not engage in certain behaviors; we often don’t know their hearts or minds, unless they bless us with all that information on Facebook, which is often the case.”
Hodges said what people do medically is supposed to be kept in private.
“It is no more respectful or loving to outright ask someone about his/her vaccine status than it is to ask about anything else medically in his life,” he said.”