Monday, July 11, 2022

A Plague of Willful Incompetence

This The Tyee article, "Get Ready for the Forever Plague," by Andrew Nikiforuk, hits all the important notes about our ongoing pandemic. He says that we're dealing with a "plague of willful incompetence" as Covid continues to evolve. All reasonable responses have been abandoned, including masking, testing, data collection, and robust ventilation. Covid is not inevitable and in no way beneficial as reinfections increase the damage from Covid and each infection damages the immune system regardless how mild the symptoms. Two years ago Anthony Leonardi predicted that Covid would destabilize "the immune system by subverting T-cell function" creating a cumulative damage. 

We're headed for a BA.5 wave, which is more transmissible than any previous variant. Vaccinations help reduce death rates, but we need to focus on preventing infection or reinfection in the first place. 

"Letting the virus run unchecked is pretty much a strategy for creating a tsunami of neurological impairment and chronic illness in the general population. . . . A pandemic that progressively weakens its host population with each successive wave is ultimately more dangerous than one that dispatches 10% of the population and then vanishes. . . . By abandoning the critical goal of stopping or reducing viral transmission about a year ago, authorities have given viral evolution an incredible edge. The more opportunities the virus has to infect hosts, the more opportunities it has to mutate and produce variants.

The pandemic is not over, and it will not likely end for years. It spreads through the air in aerosols like a viral smoke, in distances greater than two metres. The disease ( a thrombotic fever) is not mild. Just one infection can destabilize your immune system and age it by 10 years. The risk of long COVID increases with each infection. Reinfections harm the immune system and increase hospitalizations and death even among the vaccinated. Meanwhile, the virus is now evolving at a rate faster than vaccine development (three waves this year along). And the effectiveness of current vaccines are now waning. Mother Nature offers no guarantee that virus will evolve to a benign or endemic state this year or next. Meanwhile human behaviour has increased biological risk instead of dampening it. . . . 

The world has divided into two groups of people: 1) 'Those who already realize that SARS-CoV-2 causes neurological, vascular and immune system damage...and that damage from reinfections is cumulative. 2) Those who are about to find out.' . . . Reducing transmission is the only way to slow down viral evolution. There is no mystery to this approach. It means free N95 masks for the entire population and appropriate masks for children. It means installing proper ventilation and filtration (HEPA filters) in schools and workplaces, along with CO2 monitors. It means paid sick leave for the infected. It means transparent data collection and reporting so people can gauge the ever-changing risk in public spaces. And it means communicating the truth about this pandemic, which is by definition an evolving and novel emergency that requires our full attention."  

ETA: Nikiforuk added a rebuttal to critics who disagreed with a few claims, like that Covid can wreak havoc with any organ in the body, preferring the more specific "broad tissue tropism" affecting vital organs in the body. But, it's an article about science for a mass audience, not a science article, so I'd argue that using more colourful wording is acceptable. He added more links to studies to address other concerns, but doesn't give credence to a fearmongering claim: "Unlike many of our public health officials the article pointedly communicated new research as well as growing concern about the evolution of this pandemic and its complexity. As such the article challenged wishfully optimistic narratives among the status quo. . . . Downplaying the pandemic is not recipe for ending it but compounding it." 

The 66 second video below is from The John Snow Project. It's not a Game of Thrones reference, but a nod to the English physician who prevented the continued spread of cholera in 1854 by convincing town officials to take off the handle to the specific water pump where the virus had originated, which they did only on a trial basis. Then they couldn't ignore the dramatic decline in cases of illness. Unfortunately, our officials seem to be better at ignoring reality. (ETA: TVO wrote about this a couple months later). 

Here's yet another analogy to try to nudge people to get on board:

Refusing to wear a mask because it's not 100% effective and might dampen social encounters a little is like refusing to wear a condom because it's not 100% and makes socializing just a little less intense. And refusing to vax because it's not 100% and might have some side effects, is like refusing to take birth control pills because they're not 100% and might have some side effects. If you do both, wear a condom and use birth control pills, it's really effective. And if you get vaccinated and wear an N95 or better all the time in public, then you're unlikely to get Covid. Lots of people don't have unwanted pregnancies, and lots of people have never caught Covid. Of course there are many other mitigating factors that affect who gets what, but it will definitely dramatically reduce your chance of catching and spreading this virus if we can all make an effort to mask, vax, and ventilate as much as possible. 

So simple, yet so improbable.

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