Bob Snyder, who heads the Flagler County Health Department, is among the chief architects of the county’s response to the covid pandemic. He has been its most visible and ardent advocates of safety measures for 18 months and vaccination since December. He had managed to make it through a year and a half of the pandemic’s most viral trenches unscathed, even when he was unvaccinated for two-thirds of that time.
Today, Snyder revealed he was among the “breakthrough” cases, contracting the delta variant recently despite his January vaccination.
He described the infection as mild, sidelining him with tiredness for three days, and though he was quarantined for 10 days, he continued working, ramping up the department’s preparations for a new testing and vaccination regimen starting next week–as school resumes–and has been back at work in person.
“I got my vaccination the second week of January, and to my surprise,” Snyder said this morning, “recently I came down with symptoms, nine in total that caused me to believe that I might be infected. So I immediately was quarantined, made contact with close contacts, and arranged to get a monoclonal antibody infusion at the hospital, AdventHealth [Palm Coast], and almost immediately began to feel better. And over a 10-day period my symptoms vanished. I am healthy and back at work, but I definitely was a breakthrough case, which is less than 1 percent of the population.”
He described his symptoms as “very mild to moderate,” attributing the mildness to his vaccination. “I cannot imagine what would have happened if I wasn’t vaccinated. Thankfully, I had available to me the monoclonal antibody that I took advantage of through an infusion on an outpatient basis at the hospital, and once that occurred I immediately saw relief. Matter of fact, within 24 hours. My symptoms began to disappear–about 50 percent of my symptoms began to disappear. And then within 48 hours 90 percent, then by day three, 100 percent of my symptoms had dissipated. Yet at no point was Snyder out of contact either with his department or with media, conducting lengthy interviews by phone that at no point betrayed his condition.
Though an individual’s health status is private, Snyder agreed to speak of his infection publicly to ward off rumors, disinformation or false assumptions. “There is a right to privacy and we certainly respect that,” the health department chief said, “but I guess you know, given my given my position and the role that I’m playing here I don’t want anyone to twist the truth.”
Snyder does not recall specifically where he may have been infected. Known since the beginning of the pandemic in early 2020 as one of the earliest and most diligent people to wear a mask, he had relaxed his approach several weeks ago, when local daily cases were in the single digits and after the Centers for Disease Control issued a directive that vaccinated people could dispense with masks in many circumstances. The delta variant had not began its sweep at the time.
“That changed. the evidence now indicates that, with the delta variant out there in the community people who are vaccinated can carry a viral load, just like those unvaccinated for covid-19,” Snyder said.
He sees his case as more proof that masks are, in fact, essential in this re-powered phase of the pandemic. “We’ve learned that through the science and through the data that the delta variant is as contagious as the common cold or chickenpox,” Snyder said. “And that viral loads for the delta variant can be 1,000 times more with someone who is vaccinated or unvaccinated compared to previous variants and mutations. So, even those of us who are vaccinated can be carriers unknowingly of the delta variants. That’s why it’s so important, whether you’re vaccinated or not, to don a mask when you are indoors, and to follow CDC guidelines. The ballgame has changed because of this delta variant.”
In all, he was at the hospital for four hours–had driven himself there, and driven home after the infusion. “The treatment, physicians and nurses were exceptional,” he said.
Snyder revealed his recent diagnosis as Flagler County is experiencing its worst surge of the covid pandemic yet, with 900 cases recorded in the seven days to yesterday, and 80 people hospitalized at AdventHealth Palm Coast as of Monday. The surge is occurring as a combination of the delta variant and a lack of vaccinations has given the variant opportune ground to exploit. Fewer than half the county’s population is vaccinated still, according to CDC figures.
Snyder’s case hasn’t changed his approach. “Listen, I am grateful that I made a decision to get vaccinated, not just for myself but for my loved ones, my colleagues, my family and friends so that I would not infect them,” he said. “I cannot imagine what would have happened if I was not vaccinated. I just can’t imagine. so I’m so grateful that I was because the symptoms were mild to moderate and still encourage everyone to get vaccinated. This is the only mitigation strategy that truly works. But still masks are 80 percent effective in thwarting transmission of the virus. Just like Senator Lindsey Graham, he said the same thing. ‘I’m so grateful that I’ve gotten vaccinated and can’t imagine what would happen if that was not the case.'”
As much as Snyder and his colleague, Dr. Stephen Bickel, the medical director at the Health Department, have been at the forefront of the local response to the pandemic, drawing praise and plaudits from local governments and other institutions, they have also been the target of a small but rancid minority of detractors, anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers who have called for their firing, and in some measures continue to cast doubt on the public health response to the pandemic. Inevitably, Snyder’s revelation could lend fuel to the same detractors.
“Now is not the time to be spreading false information, misinformation. There’s plenty of that out there right now. This is serious,” Snyder said, citing the latest numbers of the pandemic. “We had 180 cases in one day this past Sunday. This is no joke. This is no hoax. This is serious. Let’s all do the right thing for the good of of our community, for the goodwill of mankind. Get vaccinated. Of course everyone as I said yesterday has a personal right to not get vaccinated or to not wear a mask, but all the while you’re putting others in harm’s way and you’re jeopardizing the health and safety of all of us around you. For the sake of society, we all have an obligation to take care of each other and do the right thing.”