Covid Ain’t Over Yet, Folks

When Yogi Berra stated one of his more famous ‘yogiisms’ “It ain’t over til it’s over” little did he know that would be a statement that could be applied to many things. In his case he was talking about a baseball game. Today that statement could easily be applied to the current state of the covid pandemic.

Just because cases are going down in recent weeks is no real indication that the virus has been conquered. It is a nice respite from the constant bad news but we have had such respites before. Remember last summer? It looked like maybe we were turning a corner back then also.

At that time people were getting vaccinated at a high rate. Had the trend continued maybe we could have contained the virus. But a hard core 40% of the country flat out refused to be vaccinated. The push behind their refusal was based on a constant stream of lies coming from right wing media and social media. Many paid for believing these lies with their lives.

Now we look at a relative lull in covid cases. Hospitalizations are down, but deaths remain relatively high at over a thousand a day. Think about that. That is at a level of 365,000 a year – a very high level. Yet at this time for some reason people seem to be no longer scared of the virus.

As some may point out, a large percentage of those dying of covid these days are from that hard core 40% that refused to get vaccinated. Choosing not to get vaccinated was a fatal mistake for many. They are also the group that is getting the severe cases of covid in recent months.

As we all know, having a disease usually leaves behind some form of immunity from getting that disease again. That is the basis for vaccination. In the case of covid, we know that the immunity left after contracting the disease is not as strong as the immunity a person gets from the vaccine. We also now know that both immunities wane over time. Many folks got the booster about 5 to 6 months ago. Evidence is starting to come in that the strength of those boosters is ebbing.

We are also seeing that the virus continues to mutate. History has shown us that when mutations show up in other parts of the world Americans have been very slow to react to the warnings that other countries have given us. We had a solid warning on the coming of Omicron and Americans, especially that hard core 40% refused to listen.

The Guardian had a good article on the warning that other countries (the UK, Europe and China) are giving the US:   

“In the past couple of weeks, the UK and several countries in Europe, including Germany, France and Switzerland, are experiencing a new wave. At least 12 countries, geographically extending from Finland to Greece, are experiencing new increases in cases, some quite marked, such as Austria exceeding its pandemic peak, and Finland with an 85% increase from the prior week. Many of these countries are also showing a rise in hospital admissions. 

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Indications within the United States support the idea that new wave is already getting started. Wastewater surveillance is relatively sparse in the United States, but 15% of the 410 sites where it was conducted between 24 February to 10 March 2022 showed a greater than 1000% increase compared with the prior 15-day period. Also, the BA.2 variant is gaining steam in the United States and is now accounting for more than 30% of new cases.

The root cause for the new wave is hard to pin down. Certainly, the BA.2 variant is known to have increased transmission, at least about 30% more than its sister lineage, Omicron BA.1. With the concomitant reduction of mitigation restrictions and waning immunity protection of vaccines, that transmission advantage will increase. This “BA.2 triad” of factors is thus hard to dissect, as they are clearly interdependent. Rather than focusing on what precisely is driving the new wave, the imperative is to drive some preventive action. 

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This is a critical issue, because there is a substantial dropdown of protection, from 90-95% with a third shot to 75-80% without a booster, versus Omicron hospitalization and death. The problem of lack of adequate vaccination in the United States is compounded by not having any plan for a fourth dose. The Israeli study of over 1 million people age 60 and over showed a 4.3 fold enhanced protection versus severe illness from Omicron compared with those receiving three shots.

Not only is there a gaping hole in our immunity wall, but the $58bn budget of the American Pandemic Prepared Plan (AP3), advanced by the White House to comprehensively address the deficiencies, was gutted by the Senate and reduced to just $2bn. Under threat are the order of more than 9.2m Paxlovid pills, the Test-to Treat program announced at the State of the Union address, better data, wastewater surveillance, efforts to develop a pan-coronavirus vaccine, research on long Covid, and many other critical public health measures. {bolding mine}

It ain’t over til it’s over and it don’t look like it’s over by any means. It looks like we are just in the eye of another hurricane right now. Sure hope I am wrong.

About Dave Bradley

retired in West Liberty
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