Delta, Death, and Dragon Con
COVID-19 cases are at an all-time high in Georgia as a huge fandom convention begins.
On September 1st, our beautiful state of Georgia reported its highest new confirmed case total ever for the entire COVID-19 pandemic: 10,521. Just a few months ago, the attitude here was one of relief. Cases were low and daily deaths averaged in the single digits. However, due to the significantly higher contagiousness of the Delta variant, we soon slipped back to a point more precarious than ever before. To make matters worse, this weekend is Dragon Con, a huge convention for every fandom under the sun, full of cosplaying con-goers.
In terms of national averages, we are still not yet at prior peaks, but Georgia, like many states led by Republican governments — even if we voted in two Democratic Senators and a bunch of electoral votes for Biden — has had a particularly piss-poor pandemic plan. Brian Kemp is unconcerned with the mass death of Georgians as he and his lackies work to make voting more difficult for people in the metropolitan Atlanta area so that he has some shot at clinging to power a bit longer next election.
Dragon Con began today, and I am not against holding conventions during the pandemic, as long as appropriate precautions are followed. However, with Georgia’s cases at an all-time high and the Atlanta area representing a disproportionate amount, I worry both how much this might fuel it higher as well as how much COVID-19 will be carried back to where many of the out-of-town attendees live. Atlanta has a reputation of being a Delta hub — the airline. This weekend, it will be another sort of Delta hub.
When the annual Bonnaroo Music Festival in Manchester, Tennessee was canceled due to the venue being waterlogged from the remnants of Ida, though I had at one point eagerly eyed the lineup, I was relieved. Not because I did not have to worry about missing out — okay, partially because of that. But also because it seemed like it risked potentially being a major source of COVID spread. However, being an outdoor venue similar to Lollapalooza, which seemed not to be a source of spread as bad as initially feared, perhaps that relief is based on an overblown concern.
Dragon Con, however, largely takes place indoors, which research suggests is far more dangerous. Much like Lollapalooza and, had it gone forward, Bonnaroo, the event is requiring every attendee to either prove they are fully vaccinated or recently tested negative. This certainly will weed out some who might pose a risk of spreading COVID-19 at the event, but there is evidence even asymptomatic fully vaccinated carriers can shed enough virus to infect others.
Colleges and universities in the area are also returning to in-person learning for the fall semester, though they largely are requiring their students to get vaccinated. Across-the-board vaccination seems to provide a better bulwark rather than allowing negative tests, which, for something longer than a long weekend like a college semester, is rather useless anyway. However, it is yet another factor that is possibly helping accelerate this meteoric rise.
Though higher education is a worthy pursuit in these precarious times, the past year-and-a-half has demonstrated that a significant segment of the populace will put nothing on hold, even when things are at a crisis point — which they very much are in Georgia. I continue to wear an N95 mask in public, watching as half the people around me act like nothing out of the ordinary is going on. While I wish I could change that, I know it tragically will not.
Eventually, this wave will wane, as infection confers immunity to its survivors on top of the existing reservoir of vaccine immunity — which will hopefully be bolstered by boosters soon. But every death from Delta is a tragedy, every case of “Long COVID” a struggle. Even as immunity increases, so do the chances of a mutation that will evade it. The recently hyped Mu variant seems to be just that.
The reality that many of us seemed to hope for, when we would be fully safe from COVID-19 may never come. And that is one reason I do not expect these events to keep being canceled for the pandemic alone. In the United States, we never had a properly effective lockdown, and Pandora’s Box was probably permanently opened once the early summer of vaccine-induced low case counts came.
There was something else in Pandora’s Box: hope. Hope of a world that functions in something resembling what we had before. However, hope on its own is nothing — hope’s value is solely in its power to both soothe our souls and stir them to act. The problem was not that we tasted hope, but that, as a society, we let it soothe us into complacency rather than understand what lengths we must go to keep that hope alive.
With things in many states, not just Georgia, getting worse than ever, it is easy to throw our hands up in defeat and say nothing is worth it — to be a “doomer” about the pandemic and just let it wreak the havoc that it desires. But instead, we need to fan those flames of hope into something even brighter, to something worth protecting. Masks and vaccines are minor inconveniences, but they provide potent protection. Though events will probably increasingly proceed as planned, be mindful of risks both at the events and that you, if infected, can pose to others after. Only by embracing hope and rejecting nihilistic doom can we live a safe, thriving, familiar life in a post-COVID world.