COVID Update Are We Too Complacent?

Blog#172- 9/17/23

By Richard Davis

COVID will always be with us and most of us have learned to live with it. Unfortunately, people continue to die from the disease at a rate of 255 deaths per day in the U.S. Hospitalizations for the disease are up 8.7% and the death rate has increased by 4.5%. The U.S. full vaccination rate is 68%.

Mask-wearing continues to be rare, but it seems to me that a few more people are starting to mask up again and I am even considering if it makes sense to wear a mask in crowded public places now that a new variant is on the scene.

Many health care policy experts who also serve as talking heads tend to operate in the political realm as well. Too many of them are minimizing the threat of COVID and they are doing a disservice to the public by not urging more active prevention measures. The fact that the federal government has declared an end to the public health emergency doesn’t help.

Americans can no longer get free test kits. They are not cheap and that means that as the disease spreads this winter lower income people will become more vulnerable to the disease, as they have been all along. The government will no longer pay for vaccines and unless you have insurance, either privately or through Medicaid or Medicare, you will have to pay out of pocket.

Once again, those who can’t afford insurance will go unprotected and they will suffer and die more than the rest of the population. Just another day in the land where survival of the fittest is the operative motto.

If you want a reality check here’s something from a recent piece in The Nation. “While too many people who should know better are downplaying the ongoing public health risk from Covid, others are trying to signal the peril of our current moment. The New York Times recently reported on new estimates from researchers that Covid might lead to at least 45,000 deaths between September and April—and that’s the best-case scenario. “Based on these projections, Covid is likely to remain in the leading causes of death in the United States for the foreseeable future,” Justin Lessler, an epidemiologist at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, told the Times.”

There is some good news for those of us who can afford to avail ourselves of test kits, vaccines and masks. If we stay vigilant and get the latest vaccine, which is now available, our chances of contracting the virus will remain low and the likelihood of getting sick enough to be hospitalized will be low.

There is also comfort in recent news from the CDC. “Approximately 97% of the U.S. population has antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 from vaccination, previous infection, or both (hybrid immunity). Immune responses to vaccines and infections are complex and involve both humoral (antibodies) and cellular immunity. It is likely that the humoral and cellular immune responses will continue to provide protection against severe disease from this variant. Laboratories are currently working on measuring antibody neutralization of BA.2.86 as well as other immune responses. This is an area of ongoing scientific investigation.”

The CDC notes that the newest variant does not show any signs of spreading faster or causing more severe disease than prior variants. They urge people to stay up to date with vaccines. You can get a flu shot and a COVID vaccine at the same time and now is a good time to do it. Using common sense prevention measures as winter approaches will give you a fighting chance not to be one of the 45,000 COVID deaths predicted or one of the 36,000 flu deaths that happen in most years.

Comments | 7

  • Mitigation

    Thank you for this article, Richard. I am probably one of the very few people who never stopped masking in indoor spaces. The UN has said that COVID is no longer a public health emergency, but that it is still a pandemic, given the number of hospitalizations and deaths. Not to mention long COVID.

    I know that not everyone agrees on this, but I think of mitigation measures as a form of community care. I hope not to contract COVID myself, and equally want to protect others should I be infected and not know it, which can happen with asymptomatic cases or in the early stages of infection, before symptoms set in and alert me to the need to test.

    I wish that test kits and vaccines were free to all (well, paid for out of taxes). That would be true public health.

    • Masks

      I’ve kept up mask wearing in indoor spaces when I’m out doing errands. Part of it is I do the numbers each week and see that cases and variants haven’t stopped their side of the battle, so why give up my front line defenses? It’s so easy and such a habit now. I do notice more people wearing them again recently.

      The other reason to wear a mask is to avoid all the other airborne diseases.

      You can get a lot done when you aren’t sick. : )

      • Your Local Epidemiologist

        I have been following a blog (substack) and FB site called Your Local Epidemiologist, written by Katelyn Jetelina, who’s an honest-to-god epidemiologist. Mostly she writes about COVID–which is what led her to start the blog–but occasionally she writes about other epidemics as well.

        I trust her grounding in science, and she is also reasonable in her approach–not an extremist. She is also aware of factors beyond disease that affect people’s choices. Like kids who don’t want to be the only one in their class wearing a mask, and parents who don’t want to make mask enforcement a constant fight with their kids. I find her advice down to earth and helpful, and appreciate her ability to explain science to non-scientists like me.

  • Dare I ask this?

    Why is no one (well, no respectable people) discussing the efficacy of using a safe, antiseptic nasal spray to kill viral infections before they can spread to the lungs? I keep one in my car, and use it immediately after having been in a risky environment, such as a store.

  • Mask Up

    I’ve had it 4 times, after 3 shots. The first was awful, and the subsequent variants were like colds. They all were brought to me by people who didn’t know they were sick. Twice by a BMH employee, once by a para-educator, once by an elderly person whose family member doesn’t believe in Covid.

    So far I’ve been lucky and not developed anything serious, but I don’t intend to test fate.

  • Wow!

    Four times, Annikee, glad you made it! Were all of the 4 times after taking 3 shots, including the really bad one?

    I have had covid once. I took the anti-viral paxlovid. My reaction to paxlovid was worse that the covid. In fact I hardly noticed covid, but I was sick for 3 days with paxlovid. Talking about having been sick — even “just” a cold — doesn’t sound so bad, but when it is happening, you can feel like life is coming to an end.

    Stay well. We have known one another for a long time, and I want you to thrive!!!

  • You too!

    All 4 were after 3 shots. The first was like a really miserable flu, though not as bad as mono.

    By the time I tested positive and spoke to my doc, I was already 5 days past exposure the middle 2 times. The first was before Paxlovid and the 4th time wasn’t bad enough to warrant it. It was probably a blessing to not take Paxlovid. Sorry to hear it affected you so badly. Stay well!

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