Galveston District Commander Col. Tim Vail held a town hall August 2 with the entire workforce, to discuss new COVID-19 mitigations in light of the newest COVID-19 strain -- the Delta variant.
Vail recommended the District workforce continue following all current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Department of Defense (DoD) installation requirements on COVID-19 prevention.
“We’re at the largest spike in the District that we ever had, since COVID began,” Vail said. Acknowledging that most COVID contacts are happening outside the workplace, he cautioned staff to exercise their best judgement while out and about.
“I want us to take pause and reflect on all those things that potentially put each other’s welfare at risk,” Vail said. “COVID being one of them.”
As cases of the Delta Variant continue to rise, Vail stressed the importance of masks, social distancing, and vaccinations as effective ways to curb the spread of the virus.
As a further measure, Vail is also requiring USACE Galveston managers and supervisors to reduce the number of in-person meetings required to carry out the District’s mission and various ongoing projects.
The U.S. Army’s Medical Command recently put out information about the variant and measures people can take to protect themselves.
“It is more transmissible—and it is indeed [spreading] faster,” said Dr. James Stephens, chief of preventative medicine at the Army’s Medical Command, Ireland Army Health Clinic. “It’s so fast at this point that there’s a big concern the vaccines didn’t work against it. In reality, it’s the fact that people are catching this faster than vaccines are taking effect.
The vaccine takes about two weeks to fully take effect, Stephens said. That window of time is leaving people open to the virus as it makes its way across the country.
While the vaccines do work against the Delta Variant, there is a 3-to-5 percent decrease in effectiveness against the variant, Stephens said.
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been proven to be about 98 percent effective against previous COVID-19 strains. That drops to about 90-93 percent against the Delta Variant, Stephens explained.
“If you’re exposed to it before two weeks after that second dose [with Pfizer and Moderna], you’re probably going to get it,” Stephens said.
The most vulnerable populations for the original virus—the elderly and immune compromised—are the same for the Delta Variant; however, the new strain also has added reach.
“Forty-percent of the people who are the new cases with the Delta Variant are 40 years and below,” Stephens said.
The increased incidences of the Delta Variant are behind the spike in hospitalizations across the country. According to the CDC, the number of new cases have jumped to 83 percent nationwide. That’s a 69 percent increase from mid-July.
If you have been fully vaccinated, the CDC recommends wearing a mask indoors in public spaces with substantial or high transmission to maximize protection against the delta variant. This is especially recommended for people with weakened immune systems, underlying medical conditions, at increased risk for severe disease, unvaccinated, or sharing a household with people who have weakened immune systems.
“We’re at our best in the most trying of times,” Vail said, citing the resilience and continued determination of his district throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. “I know we’re going to get through this with the same resilience and resolve as before.”
Vail also encouraged employees to reach out to USACE’s Critical Incident Stress Management Team as a resource for anyone dealing with stress related to COVID. [Employees can fine contact information regarding the CISM on the SWG SharePoint site.]
“To say that you are valued is an understatement,” Vail said. “Now is the time to seriously look out for each other.”