Friday, July 15, 2022

"Worst Version Of Virus Yet" - But Sleepwalking Americans Don't Want To Hear About Covid Or Mask Mandates

                           Recent Omicron mutations that have led to this point

Colorado Sun columnist Mike Littwin  is not one to mince words, especially as the nation confronts a new, even more vicious strain of Covid called BA.5.  In his May 25 column, 'Covid's Spreading, Nobody Cares', he made clear we haven't learned a damned thing since the last two major waves  - including the horrific Delta variant. Worse, we've mostly checked out in terms of facing any new Covid variant wave. Basically we want out, want done with the damned virus, never mind it has no intention of loosening its clutches with humans - including Americans. As Littwin bluntly put it: 

"Most Americans have tired of Covid, tired of being lectured about Covid and decided - in what seemed like a national epiphany- that whether Covid was not done with us we would be done with it."  

 So Americans - way too many-  have decided the pandemic is over.  We want that precious freedom, after all, we want to bust out of the four walls, travel, fly to new places, mingle again, live again and damned the virus to hell. Obviously that has to  include no more masks, lockdowns or supply chain problems, right?   Well not so fast. Turns out the coronavirus has other ideas as it's generated the latest omicron offshoot, BA.5, which has quickly become dominant in the United States.  Thanks to its elusiveness when encountering the human immune system, it's  driving a wave of cases across the country.  And this may be the worst ever, e.g.

The worst virus variant just arrived. The pandemic is not over.

Right now the size of the potential wave is unclear because most people are testing at home or not testing at all. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the past week has reported a little more than 100,000 new cases a day on average.  We also know, or have been forewarned by Dr. Ashish Ja, that Portugal experienced a sizable wave of serious illness and death after BA.5 hit there recently.  What are Americans doing about it? Basically nothing.  When I venture into grocery stores now I might see one person with a mask, maybe two.  After all, masks are symbols of submission to the virus or Anthony Fauci, right?  Well no.  They instead reflect acceptance of the underlying science - as Littwin notes, e.g.:

 "I wear it wherever I go indoors and I don't care if you think I am virtue signaling or not. I am following the science."

One of Littwin's most gobsmacking  revelations was that:

 "If the United States had the same Covid death rate as Australiia  approximately 900,000 more Americans would be alive today."  

But see, the Aussies followed the science - including masking

 up and social distancing when advised to do so.  Thus, they didn't allow themselves to be gaslighted and overwhelmed by moron lying leaders like Trump. Or his clown car of quacks (like Scott Atlas, Joseph Ladapo)  and conspiracy twits and fools who saturated social media with their claptrap - politicizing and dismissing Covid. The Aussies probably saw a lot of this bollocks too but ignored it for the most part, preferring to demonstrate an allegiance to the true facts as opposed to "alternative facts" -  spawned by American deniers, clowns and yahoos. They thereby also displayed a commitment to the collective or general welfare, not just "Me, myself and I". MY freedom, MY independence, MY life - not YOURS.  

No surprise then their death rate was 10 % of ours.  Which in itself is a freaking abomination.

What Americans need to know now - though they may not wish to - is that Covid-19 is circulating widely in the U.S. as the BA.5 Omicron subvariant elevates the risk of reinfections and rising case counts.   American false optimists and suckers may well expect a summer reprieve from the pandemic but they are living in fantasy land.  Right now, across much of the nation. Covid-19 levels are high in one-fifth of U.S. counties, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s metric based on case and hospital data.

Further, this is a share that has been mostly rising since mid-April. BA.5 is estimated to represent nearly 2 in 3 recent U.S. cases, which are averaging just more than 100,000 a day, CDC data show. The true number of infections might be about six times as high, in part because so many people are using at-home tests that state health departments largely don’t track.  According to Jeffrey Duchin, health officer for the public-health agency covering Seattle and King County, Washington - quoted in the WSJ yesterday:

We think we’re in a very high level of community transmission, second only to the Omicron peak from the wintertime,”

On account of this, eligible people- mainly seniors over age 60-  are  being urged to get vaccine booster shots to lower the risk of hospitalization and death and not to wait for potential updated boosters targeting Omicron subvariants.  As Mike Littwin noted in his Colo. Sun piece:

"12 percent of older (65+) Americans are still unvaccinated and 43 % are not boosted.  Why do these numbers matter?  The unvaccinated are 20 times more likely to die of Covid than those vaccinated and boosted."  

Also noted by Littwin, among people ages 50 and older, only 28% who received their first booster dose have gotten a second.  And only 34% of people 65 and older have gotten a second booster shot.  This is nothing short of stupefying, especially as we know the risk to the unvaccinated is so much higher, as well as their propensity to fill hospitals.

Vaccination now is critical given BA.5’s mutations -  based on the increased penetration ability of its spike protein - make it particularly adept at causing repeat infections, even in people who had the version of Omicron that caused the surge in cases last winter. Fortunately, according  to CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, there is no evidence BA.5 causes more severe disease.  But that could change if mutations increase among the unvaccinated and an even more nasty variant emerges.  

Ignoring this virus and pretending it isn't there isn't an option.  As the same WSJ piece from yesterday noted:

"The prevalence of infection in many areas continues to cause disruptions, including spoiled travel plans, sick children sidelined from camp and child care and hospital employees who can’t work. Covid-19 cases have exacerbated the staffing challenges dogging airlines, and in some cases caused canceled flights."

Want even more inflation from supply side issues and lack of workers because of increased infections? Then play the fool, ignore indoor masking and leave out vaccines, including boosters.

Mike Littwin ends his piece in a timely way, writing:

 "I just hope when it does hit us again we have the resources to battle it - all the vaccines, the therapeutics, the masks-  that we need. I'd like to think all Americans - even those 'done with Covid' people - would at least also expect that much and expect congress to as well.  A million Americans have died. How many more will we be willing to live with?

Well, a lot. If some of the Right reactionary media tropes and FOX-ite bunkum are to be believed.  But we already have had a warning shot across the bow. Eric Topol, a professor at Scripps Research who closely tracks pandemic trends, has pointed out  current statistics  wildly underestimates the true number of BA.5 infections,  which may be as many as a million. 


Adding:  "Antibodies from vaccines and previous coronavirus infections offer limited protection against BA.5", leading Topol to call it “the worst version of the virus that we’ve seen.”   There are worse to come if we as a nation don't grow up, fly straight, and cease with the 'Me' meme and politicizing the virus.

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