Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Finally Seeing The Virus In Past Tense? Means Grasping The Math Behind It - And The Role Of Vaccinations


           ICU overwhelmed in Madrid, Spain -  Covid is by no means over

"The struggle with Covid is because of the nature of the virus which keeps mutating. People are tired of being told about variants.  They want their kids to take masks off at school.  They just want to be done with it all.  They blame Biden that it's not over." - Alex Wagner, 'The Circus' - on Showtime, Sunday night.

"There are people who think that this is a hoax, that this is some made up thing, when the facts are staring them right in the face. That tells me we have some fundamental lesions in this country that need to be addressed and healed. I know people who are feeling that way are looking at me and and saying I'm the crazy one. But I'm sorry I have to call you out on this. It's crazy to think this is not real."- Dr. Anthony Faucim in The National Geographic, Nov. 2021, p. 19, 'Dr. Fauci - His Life  Work'

Even as we learned in yesterday's news cycle that the U.S. has now opened its borders to 33 nations -  provided travelers can prove vaccination and have had a negative Covid test within three days of travel-  it is clear we are not out of the Covid woods.  The enormous continued "vaccination gap" between red and blue states (75m still not vaccinated, mostly in red states) attests to that. And yet too many Americans, devoid of reason and sense, blame Biden for that.  Why?  As Alex Wagner put it, because he is now the "whipping post"  for all their rage, at the virus, at all the continuing sense of miasma and maybe at their own tribal nature.

The problem with yearning for an end to a once in a lifetime pandemic is that it places human emotions and hopes above implacable  virus biology. The news the virus is surging again in Europe with the Delta variant is sobering, and also a cautionary tale and reminder that "until all are safe none are safe", in the words of Barbados PM Mia Mottley.   That means until we get the rest of the world vaccinated we are in jeopardy.  Oh, and that begins with getting our own people vaccinated! No more BS excuses and bollocks such as we've seen from Aaron Rodgers (previous post).

Despite the news of Covid in our country improving, we learned yesterday (CBS News)  cases in Europe have increased 50 percent this month alone.  That surge is occurring even in places where they thought they had the virus nailed down.  Meanwhile, here in Colorado new infections have been registered in zoo animals including lions and hyenas - which biologists fear could become new repositories for the virus.  

Regarding Europe's new wave, a leading authority reminded Americans that "success today does not mean success tomorrow" and we'd do well to pay attention. WHO head Hans Kluger pointed out that Covid infections have plateaued in parts of Europe.  Speaking on CBS  Mornings yesterday he noted:

"At the same time we've seen a relaxation of public health and social measures which is a cocktail for what we see as virus spread. "  

He adds that the European region is now the epicenter for a potential new global outbreak.   In Eastern Europe the daily mortality rate is surging on account of low vaccination rates.  Romania has the lowest vaccine rate in Europe at 33.6% and one of the highest death rates.  Meanwhile, Germany's infection rate reached the highest level since the pandemic began.

According to the WHO's Kluger: 

"Vaccines are a game changer but it's not enough. We need to keep pressure on the virus."   

Why keep pressure on the virus?  Well, because it is unforgiving. Also, as an inhuman biological predator it doesn't give two craps about your feelings, your kids being masked in school, or your favorite corner bistro still being closed.  Or how desperately you want the virus to be history and to get on with a normal life - including no more supply chain issues, no more vaccine mandates (now being held up by a New Orleans-based Appeals court). Oh and no more crazy conspiracy ideations about the disease or the vaccines. 

 Well, we all want it to be over, but what the hell are we doing to expedite it in this country?  Not much when 40- 45% still remain unvaccinated for a host of reasons including the inane "vaccine hesitancy". 

Hence,  keeping pressure on the virus means toughening our will and minds and our own resolve to keep all the necessary measures we know work (masking, vaccines, social distancing etc.) going even though we might feel fatigued and want it to end. But this is no time for wimps or whiners.

In the book 'The Mathematics of Life & Death' author Kit Yates offers a simple mathematical marker to give an idea of how fast a population can expect to get past a pandemic.  He gives it as the (fraction) proportion of those who need to be vaccinated, based on the R -nought value  ( R0 ) which indicates how rapidly a virus reproduces when it spreads to new people. Specifically we have:

V  (needed)  =   1 -   (1/R)

The most recent CDC estimated value for the Delta variant of Covid is  R0  = 8.5 so in this case we have:

1 -   (1/R) =  1 -   (1/ 8.5) =   0.882

Or, 88.2 percent fully vaccinated

From this one can see we are nowhere near 'out of the woods' as far as Covid is concerned.  Prof. Yates goes on to show - again mathematically- that so long as actual vaccination rates fall behind the threshold needed,  the virus (whatever it is) goes on because there is always a significant susceptible population to be infected.   That is where we're at and why we need federal vaccine mandates e.g.

Instead of rebelling against mandates - like petulant brats - Americans need to cooperate so we can mostly get this bug behind us.

Kluger mentioned masks, hand washing and indoor ventilation especially - along with vaccines.  We simply can't become complacent and weak-willed now that we almost have this thing in the rear view mirror.   Schools, meanwhile are being blamed for rising cases in the UK which means another lockdown may be looming.   If the Delta surge worsens again in the U.S. because of so many still unvaccinated, expect more lockdowns - more likely in specific localities that have stupidly refused sane measures like masking (in schools, restaurants) or social distancing.

Here in Colorado Covid infections and hospitalizations are raging again, 

Colorado exceeds COVID hospital peak projection just 3 days after it was published 

 And our state is one of a number of U.S. "hot spots", e.g.

For many suffering with diseases such as cancer, especially those needing critical surgery,  they can't get it because of the influx of unvaccinated Covid 19 patients.  But this is yet another spinoff problem attributed to the unvaccinated. One would therefore think the latter bunch would at least wear masks. As one Denver Post letter writer put it (Sunday Denver Post):

"Wearing a mask indoors isn't a huge inconvenience for most of us, and if it reduces the spread of Covid, flu and other viruses this winter, we all win."

Well, we would all win if everyone cooperated toward a unified goal: of putting the virus behind us in actuality, not merely in fantasy - or wishful thinking. 

When CBS' correspondent Charlie D'Agata asked Dr. Hans Kluger if Americans should be paying attention and taking lessons away from that, Kluger responded: 

"Absolutely!  If a peak is accelerating the earlier you deal with it the better."

What about getting together for the holidays?  In Kluger's words "Keep the numbers down, vaccinate and ventilate."

We can get out of this pandemic morass which-  contrary to Bill Maher's fantasies -  is still with us, but that means pulling together not in different directions.  At one time it was possible for Americans to do so, as with the sacrifices made (in rationing) during World War II. My own parents attested to that.  But somehow now it seems too many Americans only focus on me, me and "my freedom", as opposed to the nation as a whole.  I believe it is time for the sluggards to put on their 'Big Boy' pants and get with the program.   Stop blaming Biden for the continuing scourge of Covid. As Janice put it this a.m.: "If Trump was still president things would be 100 times worse and we'd have over a million dead instead of 725,000 - most of which are from Trump's callousness anyway!"

The sooner everyone cooperates, the sooner we escape the clutches of the virus and truly resume normal lives. Until then it is premature to believe we are finally done with it, and it is crass and immature to blame Joe Biden for a condition a segment of citizens have themselves created by refusing to take the only 'off ramp' that works. That off ramp is embodied in the math for the virus and vaccinations.

'Nuff said.

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