As I write this, the Delta variant of Covid-19 is sweeping the nation. While there is no evidence that the Delta variant makes people more severely sick, it is around twice as contagious as the original SARS-CoV-2 (Covid-19) virus. According to research from Johns Hopkins University, the average number of daily COVID cases in the U.S. has gone up 66% in just the last week and is up 145% from two weeks ago. The variant is twice as contagious as the original virus, and suggested that the amount of virus in unvaccinated people infected with Delta might be a thousand times higher than seen in people infected with the original version of the virus. In the past few days, the Center for Disease Control has advised that vaccinated individuals begin masking in public spaces again, because they are able to carry tremendous amounts of Delta variant in their nose and throat. The deadly pandemic has continued because there is a large percentage of people who have refused to wear masks in public while unvaccinated and/or get vaccinated against Covid-19. About 97 percent of people hospitalized with Covid-19 are unvaccinated.
This is not a political post, although it most likely may be labeled as one by some. Even though Freemasonry is not supposed to take any position regarding politics, we have seen brethren divided politically more today than at any other time in history apart from the Civil War era, and unfortunately, Covid-19 has been made into a political issue due in part because of this divide. This is unfortunate because this isn’t a political issue. It is at heart a principle that I hold dearer. That principle is Civic responsibility. Civic responsibility means active participation in the public life of a community in an informed, committed, and constructive manner, with a focus on the common good. I made the choice to become fully vaccinated to protect myself from Covid-19 and protect myself from allowing me to potentially spread it to others. When I was unvaccinated, I wore a mask in public places where social distancing was impossible because of this principle. I am wearing a mask again in public indoor places based upon the latest CDC guidelines to help prevent the spread of the Delta variant of Covid -19. This is my personal decision.
While it is unknown what percentage of the population would need to be vaccinated for herd immunity, what we do know is that is most likely the high 80 or low 90 percent of the population of the United States and that we are nowhere close to that happening. For example, measles is a highly contagious illness. It's estimated that 94% of the population must be immune to interrupt the chain of transmission.  As of today, 49.4% of the population of the United States is vaccinated against Covid-19. As of writing this, there have been 609,441 deaths in the United States due to Covid-19. 95% of the deaths due to Covid-19 are in patients that are older than 50 years old. We know that the majority of our membership falls into this demographic category.
The good news is that the vaccination rates increase as we get into this demographic group. 57.5% of the total United States population aged 40-49 are fully vaccinated, 67.0% of the United States population aged 50-64 years are fully vaccinated, 81.6% of the United States population aged 64-74 years are fully vaccinated, and 77.6% of the United States population aged 75+ are vaccinated. The bad news is that rates are under 50% for the population aged 18-39. We know that the vaccines are not 100% effective. There are going to be cases of breakthrough infection. A breakthrough infection occurs when someone who has been fully vaccinated tests positive for Covid-19. The good news is that breakthrough infections are rare, and the vast majority of the cases are mild. More than 161 million people in the U.S. have been fully vaccinated, and fewer than 6,000 fully vaccinated people have been hospitalized or died from breakthrough infections. The CDC has stopped collecting data on asymptomatic breakthrough infections, meaning people who have tested positive but don’t have any symptoms. “The fact that people are getting breakthroughs with the Delta variant and not having symptoms is something to celebrate,” says Dr. Amesh Adalja of Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security. “That means our vaccines are robust against the Delta variant.” People who do get more severe breakthrough infections are likely to be elderly or immunocompromised. Of the people who had severe breakthrough infections, 75% were over the age of 65. It is still extremely rare to get severe Covid-19 after being vaccinated, especially if you are young and healthy.
The current COVID surge fueled by the Delta variant will likely continue throughout the summer and fall, peaking in mid-October. At the peak, there will be around 60,000 new cases and 850 deaths each day, Justin Lessler, an epidemiologist from the University of North Carolina who helps run the data hub, told NPR. “By the time you get to October, these resurgent epidemics have burned through a lot of the people who are susceptible.” Lessler explained. He added that, at that point, “herd immunity starts kicking in a little more aggressively and we start to see things going down again.” By Jan. 2022, the data bub projects that the number of deaths will come back down around the current level of about 300 each day.”
The longer the pandemic continues, the greater the chance that the virus continues to mutate. If you let the virus replicate itself 900,000 times, odds are that the advantageous mutation will occur. But if you limit the overall replication of the virus to 1000 times, then it’s much less likely that the random advantageous mutation is going to occur. And that’s where public health interventions really help us a lot during this pandemic – by reducing the total amount of virus replication and therefore reducing the chances that the virus can improve or adapt.
I believe that the three great tenets of our Fraternity are simple rules to follow to help one live as an upright Mason.
In the First Degree, Freemasons are taught that the first great tenet of our Fraternity is Brotherly Love. The tenet teaches us “to regard the whole human species as one family; the high and the low, the rich and the poor, who, as created by one Almighty Parent and inhabitants of the same planet, are to aid, support and protect each other. On this principle, masonry unites men of every country, sect and opinion, and conciliates true friendship among those who might otherwise have remained at perpetual distance.”
The second tenet taught in the First Degree, Relief, teaches us: “To relieve the distressed is a duty incumbent upon all men; but particularly on Masons, who profess to be linked together by an indissoluble chain of sincere affection. To soothe the unhappy, to sympathize with their misfortunes, to compassionate with their miseries, and to restore peace to their troubled minds, is the grand aim we have in view.”
The final tenet taught in the First Degree, Truth, tells us that: “Truth is a divine attribute and the foundation of every virtue. To be good and true is the first lesson we are taught in Masonry. On this theme we contemplate, and by its dictates endeavor to regulate our conduct. Hence, while influenced by this principle, hypocrisy and deceit are unknown among us, sincerity and plain dealing distinguish us, and the heart and the tongue join in promoting each other’s welfare and rejoicing in each other’s prosperity.”
In the First Degree Charge, when we are told: “As a citizen, you are enjoined to be exemplary in the discharge of your civic duties, by never proposing or countenancing any act which may have a tendency to subvert the peace and good order of society; by paying due obedience to the laws under whose protection you live, and by never losing sight of the allegiance due to your country.” The importance of the Tenets and Virtues are emphasized directly after the above, as the Charge states: “As an individual, you are charged to practice the domestic and public virtues. Let temperance chasten, fortitude support, prudence direct you, and justice be the guide to all your actions. Be especially careful to maintain, in their fullest splendor, those true Masonic ornaments – brotherly love, relief and truth.”
In our Third Degree obligation, we promise that each of us individually: "Will not cheat, wrong, nor defraud a Master Mason's Lodge, nor a brother of this Degree, knowingly, nor supplant him in any of his laudable undertakings, but give him due and timely notice, that he may ward off all danger."
There is most likely a percentage of our membership that has not been vaccinated. There are also those of you that are vaccinated who are not wearing a mask indoors after the new CDC guidance to do so. I’m writing this article to try to appeal to you. This is my attempt to whisper good counsel to you to consider vaccination if unvaccinated. It is my attempt to whisper good counsel to you to consider wearing a mask while around others in public spaces regardless of your vaccination status. I'm asking you to remember the above lessons and to contemplate them as they apply to Covid-19.
My hope is that by appealing to you as a Brother, you will let Brotherly Love fill your heart and you will decide to change your mind. My hope is that you will see such a decision as a way to give relief to others. My hope is that you will let Truth guide your decision to promote each other's welfare. My hope is that you will see this decision as one of civic duty. As a favor, from one brother to another, I would ask you to contemplate my last point. The danger that Covid poses is unseen. Are you able to give a brother due and timely notice to ward it off if you are potentially transmitting it to him? Please remember the obligations that you promised and swore to. My hope is that if I can change one mind, and in doing so potentially save you, another brother, or another person from catching this virus and/or dying from it, then I believe the article has done what it was designed to do. May Brotherly Love prevail and every moral and social virtue cement us.
WB Darin A. Lahners is our co-managing Editor. He is a Past Master of St. Joseph Lodge No.970 in St. Joseph. He is also a plural member of Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL), where he is also a Past Master. He’s a member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Danville, a charter member of Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter No. 282 and is the current Secretary of the Illini High Twelve Club No. 768 in Champaign – Urbana (IL). You can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.