Community Crossroads: Dr. John McNeill warns of threat posed by COVID-19 Delta variant

McNeill: "This virus lives by having a reservoir, a reservoir to live in, to grow in, and most importantly, to mutate in. So the more people that are available as a reservoir, the more this virus is going to mutate."

VICTORIA, Texas – Dr. John McNeill warns of the threat posed by the COVID-19 Delta variant on this week’s episode of Community Crossroads.

The following is the transcript:

Carolina Astrain: Hello, and thank you for joining us for Community Crossroads. I’m going to Carolina Astrain. Here’s a look at what’s coming up on today’s show. We’ll hear from Dr. John McNeill, Emily Weatherly, Quintin Shepherd, Joel Novosad, and Christine Krause. We’ll also hear information on topics, including the Delta variant, a free women’s wellness opportunity, the Victoria I.S.D. community survey and what the City of Victoria is up to, as well as, how the second-oldest dance hall in Texas fared amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Now we’re joined by Dr. John McNeill, who is here to warn us about the dangers posed by the COVID-19 Delta variant, Dr. John McNeill. Thank you for joining us.

Dr. John McNeill: Thank you for having me.

Astrain: And so how real is the threat of this new variant?

McNeill: Well, you know, there’s been a lot of research and a lot of focus lately on what’s known as the Delta variant. And one thing we have to understand before we say anything else is that the virus has mutated, that’s what they do, they’re very smart, I’ve always laughed and said that viruses are smarter than we are and I still believe that these viruses will mutate to our vaccines. They’ll mutate to our treatments, basically anything we do to defeat the virus, they will change mutate and come back stronger and better. And that’s, what’s happened with the Delta variant.

Astrain: And with the cases you’re seeing here locally, are a lot of them with people who are already vaccinated?

McNeill: You know, that’s, that’s been the problem and, and we’ve held out and I can remember from the very beginning of the pandemic, talking about how our only hope is a vaccine and that’s been true. I mean, we’ve, we’ve gotten a lot more of our, our normal lives back, so to speak, secondary to this, and about 50% of our United States population is vaccinated. Now, you know, in, in Victoria, we’ve done over 31,000 people that are fully vaccinated, you know, hats off to David Gonzales and the health department. They’ve done a wonderful job. We’ve given probably 35,000 people, some form of vaccination. So that’s helped us out a lot. But what happens is that these viruses can mutate. They change, they get smarter, they adapt and they overcome whatever, whatever we do. So basically what’s happened is that now these variants have come in and we’re seeing people that are backside. I’m seeing patients all the time that are well vaccinated and are COVID positive. So there is an illness that’s still out there.

Astrain: With this variant, are these symptoms at least mild, milder than they would have been without the vaccine?

McNeill: Well, that’s what we’re hoping. And that’s, that’s what the research has shown so far. But you know, this is, once again, I say this all the time, this is a new deal for us. We haven’t had the benefit of having a long time to look back at what happened in the past. So we’re just kind of going with what we know and I, and what we do know is that this virus, the Delta variant, that we’re talking about is much more contagious. So some estimates, 40% to 50% more. And then once it mutates again, which had already has, by the way, there’s even one now called the Delta Plus, they’re tracking a new one that’s a Delta variant, that’s even more modified from that. One of those little spike proteins that we see out there has learned how to defeat our vaccine and has changed. And that’s going to continue to happen. Viruses are obligate intracellular parasites, and they’re going to mutate and they’re going to change. So we’ve got to be careful about this. We’ve got to watch for disease. And most importantly, don’t let your guard down.

Astrain: And for those that are hesitant about getting fully vaccinated or even starting the process, what is your message to them?

McNeill: My message is, “I don’t even have the words to describe why someone would not get vaccinated.” There’s just no credible evidence anywhere. And you can get on the internet and you can read whatever you want to read. I get pretty passionate about this, but people need to be vaccinated. It’s the only way that we’re going to defeat this virus. This virus lives by having a reservoir, a reservoir to live in, to grow in, and most importantly, to mutate in. So the more people that are available as a reservoir, the more this virus is going to mutate.

Astrain: And that’s unvaccinated.

McNeill: And that’s the unvaccinated, if you look at the data, the people that are getting sickest and the people that are ending up sick and dying are the patients that are unvaccinated. So there’s just no reason to not get vaccinated. If you read that somewhere, then you know that you’re not reading the truth.

Astrain: Well, thank you so much Dr. McNeill for coming on. And so be sure even if you are vaccinated, put on that mask at the grocery store, take that extra layer of defense, and coming up on Community Crossroads, we hear now from Emily Weatherly, don’t go anywhere.