Did you play telephone as a child? The first player whispers a phrase to the next child in the circle, who whispers it to the next, and so on. By the time the phrase comes all the way around, it has mutated enough to prompt a giggle. The larger the circle, the more the message may change. This year, coronavirus has circulated long enough to mutate into a form more able to bind to cells and fend off antibodies: the Delta variant.
Everything I ever needed to know about the Delta variant I learned in grade school. Did you ever play sardines? More and more children cram into a hiding place until there are too many to hide. Similarly, the Delta variant overcrowds the respiratory tract. Compared to the coronavirus we first knew, it multiplies faster, becomes infectious sooner, and reaches a much higher viral load.
Did you play Red Rover? At Suncrest Grade School, opposing teams faced each other in lines. Our team dared someone from the other side to try to break through our clasped hands: “Red Rover, Red Rover, we dare [name] come over!” A strong runner could break a weak link in our human chain. On today’s coronavirus playground, the Delta variant runs hard enough to cause mild breakthrough infections in some fully vaccinated people.
I'm a historian who writes novels and literary nonfiction. My home base is Madison, Wisconsin.