COVID and Reasonable Risk
A lot of America is simply over the pandemic, even if it isn't over us.
The Atlantic has published an essay by Matthew Walther, editor of The Lamp, a Catholic literary journal, and a contributing editor at the American Conservative, titled “Where I Live, No One Cares About COVID.” For much of the piece, Walther comes off as a preening jerk.
[O]utside the world inhabited by the professional and managerial classes in a handful of major metropolitan areas, many, if not most, Americans are leading their lives as if COVID is over, and they have been for a long while.
In my part of rural southwest Michigan, and in similar communities throughout the country, this is true not despite but without any noticeable regard for cases; hospitalization statistics, which are always high this time of year without attracting much notice; or death reports. I don’t mean to deny COVID’s continuing presence. (For the purposes of this piece, I looked up the COVID data for my county and found that the seven-day average for positive tests is as high as it has ever been, and that 136 deaths have been attributed to the virus since June 2020.) What I wish to convey is that the virus simply does not factor into my calculations or those of my neighbors, who have been forgoing masks, tests (unless work imposes them, in which case they are shrugged off as the usual BS from human resources), and other tangible markers of COVID-19’s existence for months—perhaps even longer.
In some sense, this is true of me at this point. But I’m a reasonably-healthy middle-aged man who has been vaccinated and boosted, who lives in a household whose members have done the same, and who works at a university where everyone is under a vaccine mandate and whose workforce has been all but fully vaccinated since April.
Walther seems not to have taken any precautions whatsoever, for himself or his children.
Indeed, in my case, when I say for a long while, I mean for nearly two years, from almost the very beginning. In 2020, I took part in two weddings, traveled extensively, took family vacations with my children, spent hundreds of hours in bars and restaurants, all without wearing a mask. This year my wife and I welcomed our fourth child. Over the course of her pregnancy, from the first phone call to the midwife a few months after getting a positive pregnancy test until after delivery, the subject of the virus was never raised by any health-care professional, including her doula, a dear friend from New York.
Meanwhile, our children, who have continued to attend their weekly homeschooling co-op since April 2020, have never donned masks, and they are distinctly uncomfortable on the rare occasions when they see them, for reasons that, until recently, child psychologists and other medical experts would have freely acknowledged. They have continued seeing friends and family, including their great-grandparents, on a weekly basis. As far as I can tell, they are dimly aware that “germs” are a remote cause of concern, but only our oldest, who is 6, has any recollection of the brief period last year when public Masses were suspended in our diocese and we spent Sunday mornings praying the rosary at home.
This just strikes me as deeply irresponsible. Yes, I’m aware that small children are at very low risk from COVID. But, low risk is not no risk. And, before vaccinations were widely available, he was also increasing the risk of anyone who was elderly or immunocompromised with whom he came into contact.
The CDC recommends that all adults get a booster shot; I do not know a single person who has received one. When I read headlines like “Here’s Who May Need a Fourth COVID-19 Vaccine Dose,” I find myself genuinely reeling. Wait, there are four of them now?
So, I’ve been boosted for nearly a month. My wife got boosted over the weekend. So have many of my colleagues. I’m not sure it’s necessary for most of us. But the modest inconvenience associated with the side effects seems a reasonable burden to bear to help contain a pandemic that’s still killing over a thousand Americans a day.
And in some senses my situation has always been more in line with the typical American’s pandemic experience than that of someone in New York or Washington, D.C., or Los Angeles.
The best example of this fact, apart from the agita about holiday travel, is outdoor masking. Prescinding from the question of whether there was ever any meaningful evidence in favor of outdoor transmission, let me point out that until I found myself in Washington, D.C., on a work trip in March, I had never seen anyone wearing a mask outside. For someone who had never worn one in any situation, it was bizarre to find thousands of people indifferently donning these garments outdoors, including those walking alone or in pairs at night after leaving bars or restaurants where they had presumably taken them off.
So, I live in the DC area and, yes, I find it odd that people wear masks outdoors. Then again, downtown DC is pretty crowded and people walk a lot, so they come into close contact with hundreds of strangers a day. Outdoor masking may actually be a prudent safeguard in that setting in a way that it’s not out here in the suburbs, much less rural America.
And Walther also has a point here:
I came away from this experience with the impression that, whatever their value, masks long ago transcended public health and became a symbol, not unlike in this house we believe signs or MAGA hats. This, no doubt, is why in my part of America, the only people one ever sees with masks are brooding teenagers seated alone in coffee shops, who seem to have adopted masks to set themselves apart from the reactionary banality of life in flyover country in the same way that I once scribbled anti-Bush slogans on T-shirts. The survival of such old-fashioned adolescent angst is, at any rate, deeply heartening.
There is doubtless a lot of performance art involved in masking rituals and the like. It might have existed, anyway, but the fact that former President Trump so politicized the virus certainly exacerbated the problem. Masking became as way of signaling that you’re not one of THOSE PEOPLE.
As far as my wife and I are concerned, an atmosphere of parochialism hangs upon relentless adherence to CDC directives. By European standards, hand-wringing about masks in schools is as silly and absurdly risk-averse as the American medical establishment’s insistence that pregnant women not drink coffee or wine. Indeed, there is something small-minded and puritanical and distinctly American about the whole business of obsessing over whether vaccinated teachers remove their face covering during a long school day. (When I read such things, I experience the same secondhand embarrassment I felt upon witnessing an American tourist in Rome ask a waiter at a trattoria to remove the ashtray from the outdoor table at which the employee in question had just been smoking.)
My late wife, who was 38 and 40 when she was pregnant with our daughters, did indeed refrain from coffee and wine during those pregnancies and was very cautious even when nursing. The increased risk to the fetus is pretty small but not nonexistent and she simply decided that, if something went wrong that could have been attributed her decision to indulge in risky behavior, she couldn’t live with herself. But few Europeans make that decision and, so far as I know, there’s not a massively higher rate of birth defects on the other side of the Atlantic.
And Walther really drives that point home here:
I am always tempted to ask the people who breathlessly quote what various public-health authorities are now saying about masking and boosters whether they know how the National Institutes of Health defines a “problem drinker”? The answer is a woman who has more than one “unit” of alcohol a day, i.e., my wife and nearly all of my female friends. These same authorities, if asked, would probably say that considerable risks are associated with eating crudos or kibbeh nayyeh, or taking Tylenol after a hangover. (This is to say nothing of cannabis, which is of course still banned at the federal level.) My point is that sophisticated adults are generally capable of winking at overly stringent guidelines. In the case of COVID, many are not.
Now, this is not strictly true. Indeed, I can’t find any place where NIH defines “problem drinker.” It’s true that they recommend women consume no more than one drink a day and men no more than two. They define “heavy alcohol use” for men as “consuming more than 4 drinks on any day or more than 14 drinks per week.” It has been quite some time, indeed, since I fell short of that amount on any day or week. (There are days when I have only 2 or 3 drinks but my pours are considerably more generous than the NIH definition.) NIH also defines “binge drinking” as “consuming 5 or more drinks (male), or 4 or more drinks (female), in about 2 hours.” I do manage to stay below that level.
Aside from drinking more than the authorities recommend*, I carry more weight, eat more red meat, eat fewer vegetables, and get less exercise than I should. But, of course, there’s a rather stark difference between these risky behaviors and refusal to follow COVID guidelines: negative externalities. I don’t drive drunk, either.
*I’m reminded of the great Willie Nelson lyric, “There’s a lot of doctors that tell me that I’d better start slowing it down. But there’s more old drunks than there are old doctors, so I guess we better have another round.”
There is so much wrong with that piece, starting with the title, which might as well be “Checkmate, Libs!” No indication that he has checked with his local hospital staff on how they are living normally.
BUT my main point is that boosting makes a lot more difference than you might think. Epidemiologists and virologists have suspected it, and there’s a preprint out today that confirms it. And the booster should be an m-RNA vaccine, which makes more difference than the J&J. Here’s a great Twitter thread on the study and results.
This is a remarkable and unexpected finding. We have a lot more to learn about how the immune system works. Meanwhile, get your booster!
From the same issue of The Atlantic:
What’s really infuriating is that this self-obsessed POS spends his life as a professional Christian, telling other people how Jesus wants them to live. He wouldn’t know Jesus if He spat on him.
(Hey — Look at that: in terms of pronouns, it really makes comprehension much easier if one of the two “hims” happens to be divine. Maybe this is the answer to MR “nyaah, write me an action scene where everyone is called they” challenge.)
I’m pretty sure this choad doesn’t give a flying fuck about his local hospital staff.
This is a thing with conservatives: if it doesn’t happen to them or someone they care about, it just doesn’t exist. They lack both empathy and imagination.
@Mikey: It’s not that they lack empathy. They just have a radically different definition of who is deserving of empathy. They’ve narrowed the definition of who is human, for lack of a better phrase, in such a way that it excludes way more people than it includes.
Kinda like that Asimov book, don’t recall the name but it is one of the Robot books (yes, this is Kathy-bait), where a planet had narrowed the definition of human such that its robots would not categorize anybody with the wrong accent as human and so were willing to harm them in contravention of the normal three laws.
ETA: The book is ‘The Naked Sun’.
I’d bumped into the quoted article earlier (?LGM) so was sort of prepared. You’ve included more than I’d read before. Another little drop into what has become gallons of pain; we really are F’d if a little ol’ mutation should give that virus a 25% mortality in — say 6 months. It screws with clotting. And it doesn’t take much disturbing of that ‘cascade’ before one joins one’s ancestors.
But that’s not what I came to talk about. The illustration of the masked alpine trekker grabbed me. Thought I’d mention that was actually a ‘thing’ during the ‘lockdown’. The pandemic/lockdown caught a wave of Appalachian Trail thru-hikers in their first weeks of hiking to Maine.
So there were lots of them (being early, most who would drop out had not yet done so). The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (who ‘recognizes’ a thru-hike) told all of them to go home. The shelters were announced as ‘closed’. And no thru-hikes would be recognized. Many went home.
But there was quite a hew and cry in the hiker world. Because — as the illustration shows — you might meet 2 or 6 other people in a day on some sections of the trail. ‘Social distancing’ is pretty easy. There is no way to ‘close’ a wilderness path or shelter. And a cell phone camera and/or a blog are all the ‘recognition’ anybody needs.
All calmed down now and no one masks in the woods but many hikers do apparently take their masks along for ‘town days’. And I guess many do not.
I always get the feeling when I read articles like this that he is dishonest in his writing, that he didn’t do all those things. That a health care professional didn’t bring up COVID? Spare me. Pretty sure that he feels the point he’s making is more important than any objective truth.
I bet everyone he knows cares about COVID. That they have, rightly or wrongly, assessed the risk and modified behavior accordingly. Yes, no one is going to wear a mask on a 5 acre lot while gardening. Or even walking the dogs in a quiet suburb. I’ve been to small towns in the Texas Hill Country. Sure, a lot less mask wearing but it is not zero and never was.
He’s full of crap.
@Scott: He’s full of crap.
I certainly hope you’re right.
To the American right, you’re not really dead unless you’re killed by a Muslim terrorist, an illegal immigrant, or a black person.
Here’s the tell:
When ever somebody refers to “typical Americans” you can be sure they mean, “the Americans I know” and that the people in New York, or DC or LA don’t really count because they aren’t really Americans.
The sneer and grievance oozing out of this sentence tells us all about the author. Most of Americans live in those major metropolitan areas and they are not all professional or managers. But they apparently don’t count as real Americans. I’m really tired of these professional grievance mongers.
@OzarkHillbilly: Beat me to it.
Maybe not. A lot of people, especially on the political/religious right are quite talented at ignoring evidence/objective reality in favor of preferred beliefs.
Conservative leaders and media, political and religious have been propagandizing heavily the idea that COVID is no big deal – believing that has become part of their tribal identity. He could just be high on his own supply, and conforming to his movement’s preferred behavior.
The planet, Solaria, is where the action takes place in The Naked Sun. The instance of the robots you cite takes place a couple of centuries later in Robots and Empire. Bonus, the same world and similar robots also appear millennia later in Foundation and Earth.
Wow, can’t believe a trad Catholic homeschooler weirdo is finding the modern world confusing. Where he lives everyone he knows uses the rhythm method–unlike the bizarro professional managerial elites with their big cities and experts and trust in the science.
Right… so I’m not a “heavy drinker” until…. about 17:30 on Wednesday. 😀
I take the opposite view – going maskless has become like a bumper sticker, yard sign, or MAGA cap, it’s become a public badge of conservative tribal identity. That is why in deeply red areas there is social pressure to conform to the maskless environment.
What an @sshole.
Seriously, I find myself irritated more at The Atlantic for giving this jerk a platform than anything else. Yes, we need to assess risk and Americans (actually humans) are notoriously bad at making these determinations.
They are doing their children a massive disservice by choosing to ignore the advice of public health experts. I was talking to a nurse not that long ago who said that globally, we have pandemics come up roughly every 20 years or so. This one–despite the death, despite the spread–isn’t the “big one” that is anticipated. With an increasing global population, extensive travel and a deeply connected economy and humans encroaching on previous wilderness, it’s still likely we’ll see a pandemic with a higher death rate at some point in the future, and we now know how this family will respond.
I’m calling BS on this author’s entire premise. As someone who frequents “typical America”*–including southwest Michigan where this author hails!–mask wearing is pretty common. In small, one-stoplight towns, in larger 3-stoplight towns, and in rural cities of 20K+, you can pick a random sample of people and at least 50% will be regular maskers indoors.
Reading this, the author struck me as someone who, even in his (I’m guessing) small town, has surrounded himself with a few like-minded people and has come to believe the 20 or so people he sees each week is representative of the world.
I’ve seen this a lot in my hometown. Usually the 20-odd person community is church-based (check):
(Also, your kids are only “dimly’ aware? They don’t ask questions? My three year old had approximately 45,000 questions about minor changes in her life due to the pandemic, but his 6 year old has thought of nothing??)
they live in a more-rural part of their already-rural community, further limiting their already curtailed contact with others (check):
they homeschool (check):
and the connections they do have outside of their tight-knit group live in very similar circumstances of tight-knitted, religiously-based, home schooled communities.
Or, he’s not in a tight-knit religious community, he does get out in the world, sees masks all the time, and is lying here. And given his claims that at least two medical (or adjacent) professionals–a health care provider and a doula–didn’t even think to bring up covid, I’m going with “Liar McLiarface with the Pants on Fire. ”
*Which, it should be noted, is anything but. The people living in LA, NY, and DC are living the “typical American” experience, not the guy in southwest Michigan.
ETA: I see all this has been covered by now, but my fury will not be denied!
@Kathy: Ah right, I knew I had it mixed up somehow, thanks! I’d forgotten about ‘Robots and Empire’ and couldn’t reconcile how ‘Foundation and Earth’ would have involved somebody with a Solarian accent so had assumed it was ‘The Naked Sun’.
That makes much more sense.
Found via this:
My slightly different view is to see it as “herrenvolk tribalism” rather than “caste.”
@Neil J Hudelson:
That’s all very well, but even in deep red areas people who exist who are not deeply into conservative tribalism.
The statistics say it is mostly conservatives that are going unvaccinated for example.
The psychology of the RW is fascinating, in a train wreck sort of way, and reasoned assessment of risk is no part of it.
@Neil J Hudelson: The ability to vent is a free mental health service provided by this blog.
Right, which is why his “only broody teens at hipster coffee shops where masks here, and not a single person has gotten the gosh darn booster” schtick is so transparently bullsh!t.
Either he’s lying, or he’s so cloistered as to be blind.
@Neil J Hudelson: “Wear” not “where.” The edit function is clearly coded to disappear when your mistake makes you look like a dumbass, rather than a typo.
@Neil J Hudelson:
One thing that I saw called out on Twitter is that the rhetoric about “typical America” is that these are the communities that really care about their neighbors and band together to support each other in times of trial.
And yet, we see the people who typically espouse these values also publicly and proudly proclaiming in editorials like these that they refuse to engage in the most basic level of community protection for reasons of deep individuality.
Evidently, they don’t teach civics at their weekly homeschooling co-op and they don’t preach Christian charity at their church.
This bears repeating. With vaccination rates and COVID risks where they stand now, this editorial choice borders on malicious.
Let them die. Honestly. At some point, these people are doing the equivalent of playing Russian roulette with a revolver, over and over again. You’ve tried arguing with them about the safety; they don’t listen. You’ve pled with them to think about how their deaths would impact their families–again, nothing. At some point it’s just better to give up, shrug your shoulders, and work towards making sure that no one else has to support their stupidity. Let doctors and nurses (and hospitals) be able to refuse admission, or put them at the back of the queue. Let the hospitals demand payment up front. Let the insurance companies refuse to cover any COVID-related symptoms unless they’re vaccinated.
Stupidity should hurt, and if it ends up with a passel of dead people due to their own arrogance and idiocy, so be it.
”By European standards, hand-wringing about masks in schools is as silly and absurdly risk-averse”
Italy (his Euro example) requires masks everywhere indoors, and has a “Green Certificate” most people over 12 have to have to do most things. And in so called “yellow zones” the rules are much more restrictive.
Of course the author is lying, and of course he’s deluded and in denial. He’s a religious man and delusion is a pre-requisite.
But I’m still waiting for someone to answer a question I posed a few days ago: what does victory look like? When will we know? By what metric? If you want people to comply with emergency measures it’s a good idea to give them some idea of when the emergency will be over, or at least how we’ll know when it’s over.
Covid is endemic. We’ll be getting shots and boosters for many years, perhaps forever, just like flu. We will not be wearing masks for many years, let alone forever. Compliance will start to drop, even here in LA where I see people driving alone in cars while masked. Compliance will decline and then compliance will suddenly collapse. And the next time we have a health emergency compliance will be still lower.
I just want to say that at times it has been embarrassing to be a Catholic during the Pandemic, as members of my “tribe” (aka, Catholics) acted in ways that I did not expect from those who wear a collar.
Priests who tried workarounds to get all of their flock under one roof; often times resulting in a spreader event, and sometimes a situation where several members of your flock may have actually died after getting Covid, and of course there have been lots of documented cases of Priests/Pastors getting sick and dying due to Covid.
Then there is this article which makes light of Covid, it is just embarrassing. I am asked to believe (and still do) that there is a Heaven, and the Big G is in my heart because he is with me at all times, even when things get difficult for me, these great unseen things that I cannot provide Empirical proof that they exist, but when it comes to Covid a Priest of all people, will point me in the direction of Trump and say listen to that guy he gets it, Covid is nothing to worry about. Wow.
Sigh. Nothing really new here. Yet another conservative anecdote/statistic/fable to justify callous indifference and self-interest.
Serious question–who is asking for victory over Covid? In NYC you have to show your vax passport to get into restaurants and bars where no one wears masks. Big deal…most everyone wears a mask on the subway and for doing routine errands inside. That’s about it. That seems to me to be a real victory. I can’t imagine a denouement where the pandemic is suddenly over, and we’re back to normal and all is well. Honestly, I don’t want that. I don’t want fake victory or redemption. It sounds very sad to me.
When it is no longer a pandemic, but endemic. We are not there yet. There are still too many cases spread out across too many different countries. This means an ongoing risk for variants of concern.
This won’t be endemic until we focus on mass vaccinations in countries with low vaccination rates.
Influenza mutates every year. Covid will as well. There will never be a time when all of Africa and Asia are vaccinated, in fact I’d be stunned if we got to 50% worldwide, ever.
As I understand it, a pandemic is when exponential growth in infections is seen across most of the world. Endemic (again, not an epidemiologist) is when a disease is consistently present in particular regions – malaria in southeast Asia or HIV in Africa.
Our present circumstances do not quite fit either category. We don’t have exponential growth in North America or Europe. What we have are peaks and valleys. But Covid is not geographically-limited. I’d suggest that regionality is less and less a thing on planet earth – flu goes everywhere, so does Covid. Instead of geographically-defined regions we have vaccinated and un-vaccinated areas.
We need to be able to tell people, when we get to such and such metric, the emergency will be over. If we can’t even define an end game beyond vague and evasive answers, people will make their own decisions, mask wearing will decline, and future compliance will be even more problematic.
And I will repeat what I responded: what does the acceptable new normal look like?
With the current restrictions and behavior we have 1200/day dead, and if we relax, that number will increase. Hospitals are currently strained and periodically overwhelmed, and there’s a very real staffing shortage that makes it nigh impossible to scale up. The immunocompromised remain at high risk. We have a crapload of people effectively disabled with long-covid, and we don’t really have a safety net for them.
I get it, The current behaviors are a nuisance, and sometimes harmful to peoples’ well-being. You want to return to some semblance of normal, but that old normal isn’t coming back.
If we relax, illness, hospitalization and death rates will climb. Hospitals will be flooded and have to shift to a crisis standard of care with the dreaded death panels. It will be a very bad time to need hospitals for anything else serious. The immunocompromised will be fucked. The long-covid disabled will likely become homeless.
Is that what you want your new normal to look like?
That’s what Florida and Texas are going for. And it’s possible that they’re right — we may just be trying to hold back the inevitable. But, that assumes things like no new treatments (the two antiviral pills are still under FDA review, so that’s not right), no advancements in treating long-covid are coming (that might be right), and we will never control community spread so the immunocompromised are well and truly fucked (probably right at this rate) and we’re never going to figure out how to expand hospital supply (it’s a labor crunch, mostly, so that might be right).
If you’re done with covid, you’re wealthy enough to move somewhere that is also done with covid.
That’s because of the current restrictions and behavior. Those peaks are the start of exponential growth, which tends to frighten enough people into compliance.
(Ok, all the growth is exponential, but I’m assuming Michael means the period where the growth is massive… the colloquial definition of exponential. It really would be better if people understood exponential growth, but that’s a hard sell without a lot of math)
@Neil J Hudelson:
I live in Fort Collins, CO, population “only” 170,000. If you drive east from here, the closest city of comparable size is Lincoln, NE, about 500 miles. In between is space that makes rural southwest Michigan look crowded. But the same attitude is common, that those rural areas are somehow typical of the American experience, but Fort Collins and Lincoln are not. Except for the brighter young folks, who generally move away for college and never move back, it’s near impossible to convince them that they’re living in a bubble.
@Michael Reynolds: As long as those “peaks and valleys” have the potential to break our healthcare staff and health systems, there is a need to treat this as an emergency.
I’m rarely in the car much anymore, but was listening to NPR on the way to an appointment this morning. People are being denied routine care that normally would have been treated in hospital because the beds are full of covid patients.
We can say this isn’t an emergency anymore once that danger has passed.
I’m ab0ut the same age as you James and I used to be a 2-4 drinks a day guy. But my liver can’t take it any longer – or rather it’s getting to the point where I’d do serious damage if I kept at it.
It’s been difficult to cut back as the drinks were part of my routine – I’d usually have one while making dinner (I do all the cooking), one during dinner, and one or maybe two in the evening afterward. My doctors say it would be best if I stopped drinking completely and maybe I’ll get there, but for now I’ve just pared back a lot to having a drink 1-2 days a week. But that was surprisingly difficult. Difficult enough that I had a counselor help me reshape my habits. Anyway, I hope your liver is better able to take it than mine has been.
As far as Covid goes, my son tested positive over the weekend. He had Pfizer about six months ago and we were waiting for boosters to open up for kids, which just happened. He just has mild cold-like symptoms – if we didn’t have some Binax rapid test kits on hand, we likely wouldn’t have bothered to test him at all. The rest of the family (four of us) are not (yet at least) positive. And part of me wishes we hadn’t tested – having him quarantined during finals week is a huge PITA.
As mentioned before, I’m the legal guardian for my sister who has dementia and lives in a memory care facility. They’ve had about a dozen breakthrough cases there despite everyone being vaxxed and the constant mask-wearing. Our closest friends also got breakthrough cases a couple of months ago. Two of them had no symptoms at all and wouldn’t have even known if they hadn’t taken precautionary tests after one of their kids tested positive after cold-like symptoms. Basically, everyone I know of who got Covid in the last six months was vaccinated. Breakthrough cases are a real thing and they usually have mild normal cold symptoms or no symptoms at all.
And yeah, a LOT of people I know, including me, are in the fuck-it stage and are so over it, especially with schools. Our district had a 100% mask policy but dropped it this week. Kids still have to mask on school busses because of federal regulations. That mask mandate didn’t do anything and despite the increase in cases in all the mountain states, out of 30k students and staff, there are only 6 quarantines and isolations currently.
Vaccines are available and Omicron seems like the ideal variant – highly contagious while producing mild symptoms. And we now have excellent therapeutics for those who get hospitalized. Old and fat people who don’t get vaccinated can roll the dice for all I care. I vaccinated my kids, but the utility seems questionable considering Covid is less dangerous than the flu for them.
Yes it is.
The 1918 flu pandemic killed 50M out of a global population of only 1.8B. Things eventually returned to normal.
We’re currently at 10% of that fatality total, with a population over 4 times as large. It’ll take some time–and cost a lot, in both money and lives–but eventually things will settle back to normal. Minor changes will remain in behavior, but… we’re not going to stay like this forever.
How does one measure this “potential?” What is the metric and criteria, specifically, that would let us conclude that we don’t need to treat this as an emergency any longer? And what does treating it as an emergency actually mean in terms of actionable policy?
ICU capacity is fine:
Localities where a spike develops can take measures they deem appropriate to deal with it. IMO, there is no more general emergency, there are isolated and transient hot spots that will diminish over time.
@matt bernius: it’s been a little over a year since I lost my home—in a major metropolitan area on the West Coast—to a fire. The one bright side is how many neighbors helped us, from the young man—a bystander!—who rescued us from the burning building, to the many people who helped us, financially and otherwise, to rebuild our lives. It’s not only rural areas where neighbors help neighbors.
You’re a few months out for the antivirals that will keep a lot of people out of hospitals. So, good luck.
It’s more about your children being filthy plague rats who are likely to kill people they come in contact with.
Also, it’s a really horrible death for kids when it does happen.
So, you know, good times.
@Andy: It’d be easy enough to develop a metric that hospitals were comfortable with, and looking at national ICU numbers doesn’t really tell the full story.
I get it, you’re over it, fine. But for those of us who live with people who have autoimmune disorders, or the disabled, or otherwise at higher risk, this isn’t something that we have the luxury of blowing off. Nice for you that you can, congrats.
@grumpy realist: I sometimes read the Sorryantivaxxer website, which features people who die from Covid who had actively spread antivax misinformation. It always amazes me how these folks were yelling about their strong immune systems and declining the vaccines right up until they were hospitalized for Covid.
@Michael Reynolds: “Of course the author is lying, and of course he’s deluded and in denial. He’s a religious man and delusion is a pre-requisite.”
Hey, look who just guaranteed Republicans victory in the next election! It’s the scourge of the progressives, the man constantly prepared to lecture anyone to his left on exactly how they are destroying the future by alienating the Right. And let’s remember the first thing on his list — expressing contempt for religion.
But it’s okay when he does it, because he’s throwing bombs! Which as we all know is a harmless and pleasant pursuit.
I’m a few years younger that the two of you, but I’ve been working to cut back my consumption as well (which sounds like a similiar pattern to your Andy). In part the spike was related to the stress of the last two years. I’ve been cutting down, especially since I was able to restart training jiu jitsu, but it’s surprisingly difficult as you mentioned. Behavioral changes are definitely necessary. Good luck with the progress you are making!
@Jen: “I get it, you’re over it, fine.”
I do love the idea of these people who are “over” covid. As if being annoyed by something magically gives them immunity from it.
Hey, everyone, I’m over death! So now I can walk in the middle of a freeway and nothing’s going to happen to me. Because if I’m tired of something, it can’t affect me!
Yeah, EVENTUALLY. Not immediately or because they were “done with it”. They got back to normal when Spanish Flu was done with them and had some time to recover. They also just let mass death happen so the fastest route back may very well be letting nature take it course and denying them all care.
Someone in 1918 hearing “we’re done with this” about a pandemic would be incredulous or assume you’re suicidal. It’s only because of medical advances people can just decide a deadly virus isn’t gonna stop them from living their best lives and then cry about being vented 2 weeks later. Anyone thinking in terms of “victory” over this is nuts – we’ll get it down from OMG-Australia’s-on-FIRE!! to It’s-That-Time-of-Year-for-Cali-to-Burn in order for it to not be an imminent crisis anymore but “victory” is Small-Brushfires-That-Only-Take-Out-A-Campsite-or-Two. Still gonna happen regularly but not requiring mass evacuations as it rages out of control.
I’m not optimistic though and think the permanent new normal is Cali-Constantly-Burning for the same reason – an idiot’s selfishness or poor judgement destroys hundreds of lives regularly.
I get your point, but a lot of these people seem to be playing Russian Roulette with a hand grenade, not a revolver. In a crowd
Okay, so I want to agree with Andy but at the same time the problem we are dealing with now is that in rural/sparsely populated areas a hospital can become quickly overwhelmed by a cluster of folks who need treatment/hospitalization, but hospitals in heavily populated areas also have the exact same issue.
Sure, a huge chunk of Angelenos might be vaccinated, and masking up and all that jazz, but a hospital that is smack dab in the middle of a geographic region with tens of millions of folks can still get overwhelmed by a sudden spike in folks needing treatment.
A small percentage of individuals out of say 32-35 million citizens is still a whole heck of a lot of folks who might need to be in a hospital and start to overwhelm the system. So I do not feel that Covid is close to being in our rear-view mirror; and is still raging out of control in many parts of the world, and has the potential to easily overwhelm parts of the world that have their guard up now, but if that guard slips watch out now, you are walking on slippery rocks and will most likely fall and get hurt.
The solution to get us past the Pandemic is for a majority of folks world wide to get the shots, or for us all to get each other sick and herd immunity y’all! Well, I have no desire to take one for the MAGA team and let myself get sick so we can all help each other develop herd immunity, those selfish pricks only care about power and freedom for them but not for me (and I say this as a white male living in the East Bay, CA, so I am “privileged” from the bottom of my feet to the top of my head, but I am not a Trump supporter so a good chunk of the country does not like me regardless of my skin color), so no…let them help society get past Covid by getting the damn shots or just straight up dying off, at this point it is no skin off my nose.
I take being “over” covid to mean that the social harm of isolation is greater than their expected harm of the virus (with possible very wrong estimates of expected harm).
If the Republicans* hadn’t decided that vaccine and health resistance was going to be a social marker of “FREEDOM!”, then there would be less isolation — but it’s a scenario where being the responsible person separates you from your community by that, in addition to social distancing, masks, etc.
*: Yes, there are a small number of screeching people on the left, but only one side has major political figures clinging to it as a show of party loyalty, and only one side has their unhinged base making death threats.
I turned 50 at the end of the summer, and intended to get my Rite of Passage colonoscopy over Winter Break, since taking time off to do it during the semester wouldn’t be feasible.
Turns out that my health system (in a small metro area with a medical school attached to a major R1 research university and three teaching hospitals) has been forced to ration colonoscopies for foreseeable future. Everyone who doesn’t meet specific criteria is being routed into doing Cologard instead and asked to schedule next year.
This is what the pandemic looks like, separate from any metrics one might wish to implement to announce that is over. Cologard is less accurate than a colonoscopy, and a non-zero % of folks who need to delay will have screenable cancer develop over the next year due to healthcare systems needing to reallocate increasingly limited resources as personnel get rerouted to COVID care and as those in COVID care get burnt out.
The Great Resignation hasn’t somehow magically passed by healthcare workers.
There are headlines about the Kentucky tornados from a few days ago, which left 74 dead and 100 missing (so let’s just say about 174 dead).
WaPo has profiles of some of the people who died. Fox has moved on to the War On Christmas, but they are always an outlier (seriously, the top headlines are about some Christian group “under fire” for putting wreaths on all the graves in a cemetery — it’s christmas decorations on non-christian graves, how dare people be offended). It’s all very exciting, all these new and exciting deaths.
Anyway, 200 dead (let’s round up). That’s about 1/6th the daily death toll of covid, which has become background noise.
So, the people who are over it, and think it’s no big deal anymore… well, that is what they have become numb to.
The Texas Tribune maintains an updated list of Texas hospital ICU capacity, searchable by city. The ICUs in my area’s hospitals here are currently 86% full.
What magic number do they have to drop to before the area’s hospital staffing shortage magically fixes itself, and the mental health needs of the folks caring for the rest of us for the past two years get addressed? Because that’s when the pandemic will *actually* be over.
Thanks for wishing me luck – very kind of you. Considering we’ve all done our part here and gotten vaxed, I’m not too concerned.
There’s a bunch of studies that show children spread it much less than adults, despite having similar viral loads. The great fear that sick kids will kill all their teachers never materialized. And, as already noted, vaccinated people, including children, can still get and spread Covid and it’s also clear now that vaccines decrease in efficacy over time.
Now, if none of that was the case, then I would agree with the allegation that “plague rat” kids are killing people they come in contact with. But there is very little evidence that has happened, the studies comparing schools that shut down for 18 months compared to those that didn’t are compelling and not in agreement with your thesis, and the fact is those who are concerned about “plague rat” children despite this evidence, have effective measures to protect themselves.
That said, I still support vaccinating kids, which is why I’ve done that with my own kids. But I do not think that attempting to force vaccination onto children for Covid is worth the various costs.
Ok, then what is the metric? Those who keep insisting that this is still a crisis or an emergency need to explain the conditions on which they would no longer consider it to be a crisis or emergency.
Perhaps you missed the part where I said my sister is living in an elder/memory care facility? And that she is part of and lives in a vulnerable population? Covid breached the wall of extreme containment efforts at my sister’s facility a year ago and it ravaged the population, killing 12 residents. My sister got covid then, but fortunately she was asymptomatic. That was before vaccines were available.
Over the last few months, her facility has had near-constant breakthrough cases. So far, no one has died and she’s fully vaxxed with a booster. But the concern is enough that I limit my visits and test myself before I go. We keep enough rapid tests here at the house. I’m fortunate that I can afford the tests, which are about $14 each.
The sad reality is there are always going to be people with autoimmune disorders or are otherwise at higher risk. And the other sad reality is that Covid cannot be eliminated, so it is not going away. Therefore, those at higher risk cannot avoid it. So what is your solution to that conundrum?
My view is that those at higher risk have effective tools available to protect themselves. That’s what vaccines, therapeutics, masking, etc. provide them. Those who are in close contact with vulnerable populations should take extra precautions as appropriate, as we have always done with any disease.
So I’m doing my part, much more than most people and I take what I think are appropriate precautions around vulnerable populations. But I’m not going to live my entire life that way. I’m not going to treat every trip to the grocery store, or to a restaurant, or any other normal daily activities the same as a visit to my sister’s facility. I’m not alone. You many not like it, but that’s where most Americans are.
@Andy: ” I’m not going to treat every trip to the grocery store, or to a restaurant, or any other normal daily activities the same as a visit to my sister’s facility.”
You mean, undergo the extreme and excruciating burden of putting on a mask? Yes, that really is a terrible trauma, and you should never be forced to give up such a crucial element of your freedom if your immediate family’s lives aren’t at stake. I mean, it’s not like you’re part of a community or anything.
” You many not like it, but that’s where most Americans are.”
Isn’t it astonishing how everyone who defends himself in this way is certain that “most Americans” agree with him?
Thanks for the encouragement! It has definitely been more difficult than I expected. I am usually a very introspective person, but it took a while for me to realize that I’d started the habit, like you, out of stress, which then persisted once the stress was gone.
Gotta note that the COVID variants are mutating according to standard epidemic history: getting more transmissible but less severe. At least, that’s what I’ve been hearing about delta and the omicron variants.
The question is how the severity is going down–is this just because what with all the vaccines and prior cases people are more protected, or because the people who will get killed off by COVID are more likely to be dead? This might be one reason why younger and younger cohorts are getting more at risk with the later variants–the oldies are more protected, so the only variety of COVID which can continue to spread like wildfire is one that can attack the up-to-now-protected ages.
What actually has surprised me is how quick the trend has been progressing. I think it was 200 years before measles transmogrified from the original disease which had jumped to humans (rinderpest, IIRC) to something considered a children’s disease.
So, Michael, I guess my answer to “when will it be over” is when COVID is considered to be nothing more than one of the typical flus we have passing around each year, and if you’re really worried about it, get your yearly shot.
This is rather obviously going to have to be developed by states and hospitals, not me. They are the ones that are going to have the knowledge and experience necessary to determine what the math will look like for covid beds vs. non-covid beds.
I did not, I was fully aware of that when I wrote what I did–I was a bit surprised at your take on this considering her situation. It doesn’t change how I think about this.
A friend is now holding her breath that her disabled child will be able to FINALLY get a much-needed surgery that has been delayed no fewer than three times due to this pandemic. When people can get in and out of hospitals for the care they need without getting bumped due to covid patients, that’s when we can relax. And we’d get there a lot faster if people would get vaccinated.
You’re skipping right over the obvious answer, which is maintaining protocols until covid becomes endemic, rather than pandemic. That could be another 6 months, it could be a year. What I’m hearing from you and Reynolds is that you just don’t want to. To me, that’s all this boils down to: people are tired of being inconvenienced. There are actual definitions of these stages. The 1918 flu didn’t disappear, variants of it are still circulating. But it’s now endemic and far less lethal.
The fact that we have a significant portion of our population that would miserably fail the marshmallow test and this somehow governs behavior seems to be a shockingly bad way to navigate a pandemic.
You’re also fortunate that the tests are $14 each, I’ve been paying $24.99 (when I can even find them).
Yup. I so know that feeling.
And also, at least in my case, my mind plays games with me that don’t set me up for success. For example, I have learned that having a bottle of wine at the table at dinner is something I can’t do if I just want to have one glass of wine. And yet my mind keeps saying “don’t worry, you can have the bottle in the room with you and still not have another glass.” Adding a little friction into the situation helps a LOT.
@Gustopher: Reynolds is only playing “smartest guy in the room”–for reasons probably not worth exploring. As it is probably not going away, it might be wiser for us to ignore this particular rant unless responding is cathartic for specific individuals.
I agree with that and the gist of your whole comment. Covid definitely isn’t in the rearview mirror, but I think it’s past time we start looking at it more as a long-term management problem (because it’s going to be with us long-term), and not a short-term crisis problem.
I’m “over” Covid in these senses:
– Stupid safety theater and safetyism including ignoring tradeoffs.
– The politicization of covid – both the idiots who refuse to take the vaccine and the neo-authoritarians who want the government to force it on them.
I’d just note that I never said it wasn’t a big deal. But it’s not a crisis anymore (IMO) and the number of deaths will continue to decline. Because I realize this is what is happening, I don’t obsess over the daily death toll for the same reason I don’t obsess about the daily death toll from cancer and heart disease. And a big part of that is Covid death is preventable for the vast majority of people.
Ah yes, I’ve missed your uncharitable sarcasm.
So let me ask you this – at what point do you think I should no longer wear a mask inside a grocery store – or anywhere else for that matter? Please be specific.
If Matthew Walther were an airplane:
Wow, it’s like we’re related! Ok, we’re both simply human.
It’s the same thing with me. We used to get boxed wine because some of it is decent and it’s a good value. But I can’t have it in the house. Friction does help a lot and my wife helps tremendously with that. We do bottles of wine now and will share one on the weekends. Switching to bottles has helped.
For a while I thought I was an alcoholic or borderline alcoholic. Maybe I am. But the bottles of Tequila and Gin in our bar sit safely untouched by me, as do some of the other alcoholic drinks I don’t care for, so I’ve concluded I’m not addicted to alcohol itself, just the stuff I really enjoy.
@Andy: @matt bernius:
I’m in the process of quitting nicotine, and “friction” really has been the best technique. I tried all sorts of plans for weaning off–lowering strenght, timing out smoke/vape breaks, tracking and reducing supply–and the thing that worked best was forgetting my vape pen in my car while deep into a project. “I’ll go grab it in a moment. Ugh its raining now, I’ll just wait awhile. Better wait until after my next meeting.”
Suddenly it had been 8 hours without a puff, how did that happen?
To update the quote (misattributed due to evolution) to Trotsky:
“You may no longer be interested in COVID; but COVID is still interested in you.”
Omicron variant showing R number that could, at worse end of evidence be 4 or above.
Current UK modelling and epidemiology is indicating a doubling time of 2 days.
US seems to be behind Europe re Omicron, but if the initial transmissibility indicators are correct, the tsunami is going to hit there soon.
And given the rather high US levels of non-vaccination and mitigation resistance, it is likely to hit hard.
Probably hard enough for health care systemic collapse and resultant death rate increase in more vulnerable localities.
Reality gets to have the last word.
@Andy: “So let me ask you this – at what point do you think I should no longer wear a mask inside a grocery store – or anywhere else for that matter? Please be specific.”
Well, here’s the thing — I can’t be specific, because no one knows. Because this isn’t a football game that goes four quarters or a TV show that runs an hour. It’s an ongoing, still-developing pandemic, and while scientists around the world are scrambling for knowledge, they have yet to get on top of it.
Am I sarcastic when you complain about how you are inconvenienced? You bet — because you treat this global health crisis as a consumer who wants to try a different flavor, and you’re mad because people who are working around the clock to understand what’s happening can’t meet your schedule.
This attitude of entitlement — the world has to arrange itself to fit my convenience — is laughable coming from one of the “wokesters” you despise, but to hear it from a grown man who has actually seen a lot of how the world works is simply flabbergasting. Covid is here and Covid is real, and maybe it’s fading and maybe it’s about to come roaring back and we just don’t know. You seem to think this lack of knowledge is something being done to you.
Like it or not, you are part of the world. You can kick your feet and cry like a child, you can proudly declare that what happens in the world doesn’t apply to you… or you can accept that the world isn’t a McDonalds and you can’t just switch your order when you’re tired of the Big Mac.
Am I sarcastic? Yes, because I find it a healthier outlet for my rage at people who treat the entire world like it’s an express lane and they’re ramming their full shopping cart through it anyway.
I take zero pleasure in saying this, but in the UK indications are Omicron is going vertical, now.
Thankfully vaccination, especially boosted, seems to work well to mitigate severity, but not so much to contain contagion.
And a small number of a very very large number is still a very large number.
Hope/risk is omicron spread rate means burn out before potential of a high transmission variant to also become high virulence.
Saw this article earlier
Omicron variant more resistant to vaccine but causes less severe covid, major South African study concludes
This, I believe is significant:
@Andy: @matt bernius: For a lot of people, moderation is much harder than elimination — it’s why diets often have strict rules about what you are allowed and not allowed to have, rather than just “eat less ice cream and cookies”.
And an easy availability of an alternative, so you aren’t just replacing something with nothing.
@JohnSF: It’s time to cap the percentage of hospital beds and medical resources designated for the unvaccinated. At 25% or lower.
Sad and tragic, but it’s time.
@Just nutha ignint cracker:
Please don’t misgender Michael — that’s just rude. And if you are going to misgender him, go with singular-they, as that seems most likely to get under his skin.
Also, never refer to a person as “it”. That’s worse than rude, it is dehumanizing. It is how we end up with bodies stacked like cordwood.
And that’s really all it comes down to, isn’t it? Wearing a mask when sick or during periods of known spreading disease is freakin’ normal and expected in other parts of the world. What y’all are complaining about is the fact that it might become the new normal *here*. That taking a sensible, basic precaution with an obvious connotation of caring about the social good will become a standard social expectation when illness is in the air.
The answer is right now.
You can stop wearing a mask indoors any time you want, @Andy. Just be prepared to deal with the consequences – social, legal, medical and otherwise. Accept the fine, deal with the social ostracism and don’t bother healthcare if you get sick. You can do as you please but don’t expect the world to play nice with your decision. If you think it’s all theatre, then go join the maskholes and be done with it.
NH recorded 20 Covid-19 deaths today, and added two more from last month that were confirmed to be covid. We’ve been averaging around 5 deaths a day.
We’re averaging 1200-1300 new cases per day, our test positivity rate is 12.3%, and infections and hospitalizations are both rising.
New Hampshire is an older state, and many of our nursing homes, while fully vaccinated, are lagging in getting booster shots out.
@KM: As a professor, I have to project my voice for hours per day. After looking at the collection of gunk formed on the inside of my mask at the end of the day, I decided that lecturing while masked was going to be my new normal during cold and flu season. It’s just polite.
Pressed for time here, under a mountain of work.
The pandemic phase ends when enough people are vaccinated or infected, or dead, so that the virus finds it hard to jump from one host to another. That’s when the risk of contagion, unmasked and vaccinated, is very low.
Unfortunately, the trump virus does not operate on a schedule. I suppose we can get it to board the battleship Missouri (or another large US Navy ship), but we won’t get it to wear black tie or sign surrender papers. The world just doesn’t work that way.
Personally, I’d be fine with nil resources for the unvaccinated, but then I’m a nasty bastard.
For good or ill, the NHS medical Hippocatic ethic rules out that as a policy.
I’d assume the same applies to the US.
I’ve spoken to medical people, and though the unvaxxed make them spit, they generally regard witholding treatment as unacceptable.
What happens if the severe cases outrun the stocks of known therapeutics… ?
We may, unfortunately, find out.
What if the answer was never?
I doubt that will be the answer, but what if it was? What if it was just the norm that when entering a space where people are give-or-take required to go (not a lot of us can get by without food, and only some of us can afford to pay someone else to do it for us), precautions had to be taken to prevent the spread of communicable diseases?
I really don’t understand what the big deal is with masks. Is it that you cannot see the person’s face enough to see all their emotions? Is it similar to the fear of clowns?
Is it just the annoyance of wearing it?
I really don’t get it. I’m just not wired that way — but I’m also like half face-blind, and cannot read expressions very well anyway, so maybe they are different for others and present more of a mental hardship.
The current numbers in the UK seem to suggest that this will not be the case.
You should try Uncle Val’s gin — it’s quite excellent, and can be happily drunk just on the rocks.
@JohnSF: I actually researched this and it turns out medical professionals have more leeway to triage treatment than I thought. And I say triage treatment, not deny treatment.
We now have a situation where other, more responsible patients are being denied treatment as resources are diverted to the unvaccinated. Is that acceptable? Is sacrificing the mental health of an entire generation of American kids on the altar on unvaxxed selfishness acceptable? I don’t think an exponential rise in suicide attempts among teens is acceptable.
It’s time to call the bluff, allow more normalcy for the responsible, and cap the amount of medical resources devoted to the unvaccinated; at that point, it’s they themselves who are denying themselves treatment.
COVID aside, I’m enjoying the fact I’ve gone a full two years without getting a single flu or cold, so I may never stop wearing a mask in public, especially during winter
I’m not talking about timelines, I’m talking about specific conditions. I agree we can’t answer the question of when.
Here’s an analogy. If I hurt my leg, my doctor may say that I need to wear a brace while it heals.
I don’t know exactly how long that will be and it might not ever heal. But my doctor knows and will tell me what conditions need to exist for when the brace is no longer required. The doctor can’t tell me when that will happen, but she can explain the circumstances that would result in taking the brace off.
So that’s what I’m asking you, what needs to happen before you think I can take the brace off? In other words, what specific criteria need to be in place before you think wearing masks in my local grocery store is no longer necessary?
And here’s something you may not even have considered that you might want to include in your calculations (in addition to the fact that I’m triple-vaxed), because as I often repeat here, the details matter. For example, I plan my runs to the grocery store when it’s the least crowded. Same for my monthly Costco run. This is partly because I hate crowded stores, but I strategically shop to an even greater extent since covid to ensure that I’m not in close proximity to others and for the obvious benefit of having fewer people breathing stuff into the air, mask or no mask.
Meanwhile, the local Costco is elbow-to-elbow every weekend and most weekdays with many people not wearing masks and those that are wearing masks doing so very badly. I’ve seen how people actually wear masks in the real world and have read enough studies on the limited effectiveness of that to conclude that the safer option for me is to just go to the store when few people are there and to generally avoid people as much as possible.
This is part of the safety theater I talked about earlier. Masks have been promoted as this kind of force field that makes things “safe” when the reality is that the kind of mask one wears and how one wears it and for how long and in what circumstances all matter a great deal.
Here’s another situation – my closest friends are having a big holiday party this weekend at their house. Should I even go? If I go, what precautions should I take? Should the hosts require proof of vaccination and tests from all the guests? Everyone will be eating and drinking, so should everyone wear masks between bites and sips? Or maybe they should just cancel the party? After all, social gatherings are just a matter of convenience right? So it’s no big deal.
Or, here’s another situation – if people aren’t going to mask in stores much less wear them properly, then why keep the stores open? Why not make everyone have home delivery?
Point being, if ones goal is maximum safety WRT to Covid, then the clear answer is to never socialize, never go out, never go indoors publically, have everything delivered, stay home, and cheat the system and get boosters more often than the FDA recommends.
But I suspect there is a limit to what you think is reasonable. And that’s ok! These are judgments everyone has to make and in a nation of 320 million people, it’s inevitable that people will assess risks differently and come to different conclusions. Everyone has to draw the line somewhere about the tradeoffs and risks they are willing to take for themselves, their family and their community.
Now things, for me at least, are subject to revision. If Omicron turns out to be a shit storm, I’m gonna recalibrate and draw my line much higher. Things should change with changing circumstances – and that’s kind of the gist of my point.
As usual, you have gone far past the words I actually wrote and created a strawman. I don’t expect the world to arrange itself for my benefit. You’ll note I’m not condemning anyone here. And I’m certainly not “mad because people who are working around the clock to understand what’s happening can’t meet [my] schedule” – that interpretation is way off the mark.
I sure am part of the world. And what you need to realize is that your efforts to dictate to me what my proper role in the world should be, and what covid measures I should or shouldn’t take – as if you are the arbiter of such things or have any inking of my specific circumstance – have the opposite of what appears to be your intended effect, particularly given the manner in which you engage here.
I’m not exactly sure what tangent you’re going off on with this rant, but…
Let’s look at Andy’s situation from a (basic) scientific standpoint. Democrats are the party of science… right?
1) He’s vaccinated and boostered.
2) His family is vaccinated (and partially boostered).
3) He does testing–which continues to show that he doesn’t have COVID.
So… Why do you insist that he must wear a mask–as if it’s some magic talisman that will protect millions?
a) Protect others? He’s not infected, so he can’t pass COVID to anyone else. Wearing a mask, in these circumstances, is entirely for show. It’s “keeping the elephants away“.
b) Protect himself? Here’s where you’re all missing the point of Andy’s point of view (one which I share (see below)). Andy is engaging in reasonable risk assessment. He has taken significant precautions–and continues to monitor his situation–and has determined that the risk to himself (and, by extension, his family) is low enough to be within acceptable tolerances.
This isn’t about “OMG MY FREEDUMBS!”, it’s not about whatever the hell you’re ranting on about McDonald’s and such. It’s not “kicking his feet and crying like a child”. It’s about actually looking at the potential risks and making an educated, adult decision.
Andy–vaxxed, boostered, tested negative–is a danger to no one. A mask is pure show for him.
I’m vaxxed. I’m going in for my booster on Thursday. I haven’t been tested (though I’ve thought about it just to make Mom feel more comfortable), but I haven’t shown any symptoms. I wear a mask where government mandates or company policies require it. In most other situations, I don’t.
Not because of any of the childish reasons all y’all keep bringing up, but because I’m an informed, intelligent person who understands risk assessment.
Now that we have almost 2 years worth of information on COVID, I’m going to adjust my behavior to fit with what we know. What I’m not going to do is be paranoid. Nor am I going to engage in behaviors which are useless and/or performative.
I spent 6 years in China, starting in 2011. I can pretty much guarantee that I was wearing a mask on a regular basis before 99.44% of you. It was primarily because of PM2.5 issues, but “I think I might have a cold” was certainly on the list.
But even the Chinese–for whom mask wearing is ubiquitous–understand that a mask isn’t some magical talisman that must be worn at all times to ward off the evil spirits (that’s probably tiger claws or panda sweat or something).
Every time you go off on a childish rant against someone like Andy, you’re alienating allies and insulting potential converts. You’re screaming to the world “If you don’t believe 100% of what I do, you’re the enemy! I will not explain! I will not engage! I will not negotiate! I will not attempt to understand your side! You are all heathens to be persecuted!”
I’m 90% on your side, and you’re pissing me off with your absolutist bullshit.
You are the worst enemy of your cause. And you’ll never see it…. because you’re a “true believer”.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have episodes of the original Muppet Show to watch.
I’m with you 100%. I don’t get it. In fact, I’m planning on wearing masks as often as I can when around other people for the foreseeable future?
Simple. I used to get a cold or flu every few months, if not weeks. I haven’t been sick since March of 2020. Not once. I’ve been on planes. I’ve been at packed concerts (Green Day and Fall Out Boy), I’ve been to a packed Broadway show. I’ve been to a sold out Pantages Theater and Hollywood Bowl. I’ve been to a sold out Lakers game. Haven’t gotten sick once. I give credit to wearing a KN95 mask at all times in public when surrounded by people. That’s my future. I’ll wear a mask in public every day for the rest of my life if it means I never get another cold, flu, sinus infection or worse. It’s just not that big a deal to me.
A breakthrough infection after a negative test is just as contagious as any other breakthrough infection.
I’d advice wearing masks not lined in rusty razor wire, if they are so hard to stand.
Bad analogy Andy. Your hurt leg in a brace won’t and can’t affect other people. Nor can other people affect your bad leg. Covid isn’t an individual issue. It’s a community issue.
@Gustopher: My bad. The “it” in my introductory phrase was about Reynolds’ current rant about masking being mostly virtue signaling (although I’m not positive that he’s called it that in so many words) because for the vaccinated, the pandemic is over now and masks are useless because the jabbed don’t need protection anymore. I should have switched the position of the pronoun and the target noun in the phrases, but I got sloppy and figured that most people would get it. I’ll try to be clearer in the future since I am a member of the grammar police and all.
@JohnSF: Alllrightie then! New question: When the oath says “first do no harm,” to whom is it referring? Is it right and proper that, for example, Jen’s friend’s child has had his/her critically important surgery postponed 3 times so that someone who doesn’t give a
fuchoot about anyone other than him/her self can have ICU space? The sad reality is that in (Andy, cover your ears and eyes!) crisis situations someone always gets harmed. The question, then, shifts to how to allocate said harm. You may well be a nasty bastard–heaven knows people have said that about me over the years–but in this case, the nasty bastards may well be the vanguard of a new morality.
@Gustopher: Now I’m curious. Is Uncle Val’s gin good with tonic, too? I ask because I usually only drink whiskey on the rocks, but I like to have gin occasionally, and Bombay Saphire is too pricy and hard to find in my little town.
@Andy: “So that’s what I’m asking you, what needs to happen before you think I can take the brace off? In other words, what specific criteria need to be in place before you think wearing masks in my local grocery store is no longer necessary?”
Why the hell are you wasting your time asking me? I’m not an epidemiologist. I’m a writer. And unlike some writers, I don’t believe that gives me knowledge on every subject.
I don’t know the answer and I know I don’t know the answers. But I do know that there are people working on the issue who actually know what they’re talking about, and I’ll listen to them.
@Andy: Well then, let me make myself clear. I personally don’t care if you wear one mask or twelve. I don’t care if you sip on Covid cocktails for breakfast. Your life is your life, and I have no idea why my opinion on your behavior seems to bother you so much.
My only point is with your posts. Wear a mask or don’t, but for God’s sake stop acting like you are the Last Sane Man in a world gone mad. Now you’re on about how other people think of masks, and how you are so much smarter than they are. Great, good for you, knock yourself out. But the whole point of your posts seems to be that what you do is exactly right and everybody else is just a sucker.
Really not impressed.
@Mu Yixiao: “So… Why do you insist that he must wear a mask–as if it’s some magic talisman that will protect millions?”
I didn’t. He’s a thousand miles away from me. I don’t care what he does. I’m just sick of people declaring that there is no more pandemic because they’re sick of it.
Play in traffic, don’t play in traffic, all the same to me. But don’t come around here lecturing how people who don’t play in traffic are stupid, because you ran across a freeway and you’re feeling fine.
@Mu Yixiao: I’m not telling Andy he has to wear a mask. He’s demanding to know when the Covid crisis can be considered over, and I’m telling him that no one knows yet, least of all me. Why he keeps demanding my permission to go unmasked is beyond me, but every time he does I’m going to keep saying the same thing — I’m not the one who knows the answers, and when someone does have the answers, it still won’t be me.
If you guys don’t want to wear a mask, you really don’t need my blessing. Why the lack of it pisses you off so much I will never understand.
Way back when, before the commercial internet, not to mention internet book sellers much less ebooks, I was limited in the amount of reading material I could obtain. Therefore, I re-read many books, some several times. The four* robot novels were among them.
I recall on first reading I didn’t catch the accent thing until Daneel pointed it out. On re-reading, it’s pretty obvious. But who takes notice of who speaks to whom first?
*The number is eminently debatable.
@Just nutha ignint cracker: I was just being silly about misgendering Mr. Reynolds. Just in silly, goofy mood.
Pronouns require processing the context, and that’s often fuzzy but clear enough with a little thought.
And Uncle Val’s is very good with tonic, and in a martini. The flavor is a bit strong for other mixed drinks though. It might be pricey — I’m a software engineer in Seattle, so I’m not particularly price conscious. I just don’t remember prices.
My favorite budget whiskey is Pig’s Nose Blended Scotch. It’s a really nice drink. It also has a bottle cap. But better than most midrange scotches.
How big? You’re mixing bubbles and interacting with a different set of people, so you’re likely going to find out that someone there has covid. How do you feel about being exposed?
Parties usually have people shouting to be heard over the din, so that’s not unlike the choir practice example up here in WA where everyone was infected. So, assume that you will be exposed with an infectious amount of covid if no precautions are taken. Vaccine should prevent infection, and will be very likely to prevent serious infection, so… maybe visit your sister before the party, not afterwards for a bit?
And do the instant test for a few days in a row after the party before seeing her again? (False negatives are pretty significant with those tests, but it’s usually human error, so repeated tests reduce that)
Testing everyone before the party would be ideal, as there’s a good chance you would find the people with covid, but it might not be practical.
I wish the government were just shipping out tests to every household at this point — if the test is literally right there, and free, and people have been getting messages along the line of “going out to a big event? Test yourself at home first to make sure you aren’t secretly a plague rat — it’s easy, quick and only a little annoying” I think most people would be likely to go along.
@Just nutha ignint cracker:
That I’d leave to those who’ve taken that oath, and have to make those sorts of decisions.
Thankfully I’m spared that.
But if a politician were to ask me about a revised national code of practice for the NHS, I’d say that, in a crisis, those who have exposed themselves to risk despite the availability of mitigation, get to bear the consequences of their inactions.
Matthew Walther is an outstanding example of that masculinity that Senator Hawley recently reminded us has gone missing among sissy-boy Americans. Smoking cigars, not wearing seatbelts and driving after drinking a bottle of Wild Turkey 101 is the kind of behavior the Greatest Generation admired. I weep to think what ‘The Duke’ would have thought of fellow-Americans who cowered in the face of a Chinese flu-like virus.
Oh go beat up another strawman – you sound like repubs claiming libs thought Obama was the Messiah just because they respected him. Nobody’s treating it like it’s magic or perfect protection. We’re treating like it is – PPE being used to help prevent infection during an airborne pandemic that has a significant portion of the population delusional enough to be “over with it” and acting like nothing is wrong. Vaccines aren’t perfect protection (or in your words, a talisman) and you can still be infected with them so why would you choose to keep spreading the disease when it can be easily prevented? There’s no answer that doesn’t come back to illogical and irrational selfish decisions. We are trying to get this thing under control and into a manageable state, not let it keep ravaging us for years and years till the system collapses from the strain.
The *ONLY* reason this is an issue now is because it was hyped up to be some liberty-destroying plot by conservatives for political ploys. If you had ask yourself or anyone else 5 years ago if mask wearing during a global airborne pandemic was warranted, the answer would have been yes. The well was poisoned by folks who are now proudly proclaiming they’re bored with doing the sensible thing and want to ignore reality in favor of their chosen fantasy.
Anyone “done with it” or complaining about masks should be made to work on COVID patients without PPE for a month (or till they’re infected) by changing bedsheets, emptying bed pans or just dealing with the family. Go help alleviate the strain on the medical system and see it first hand; maybe like marching German citizens through the camps, maskholes need to be forced to confront what they are denying. I spent the last weekend dealing with mentally burnt out nurses and medical staff, counseling them and trying to bolster flagging spirits only to listen to this nonsense about “when can we take the masks off already?!?” The endless crying, the utter despair, unending pressure and the burgeon suicidal ideation is frightening as this is happening all over the country to the people charged with keeping us alive and healthy. But noooooo we’re pissing off people like @Andy and yourself who care only about when you can not wear fabric on your face.
You’re pissing off everyone who has to actually deal with the consequences of this with your whataboutism BS and excusing selfish behavior. You are not an ally if you’re making up slander like liberals treating masks as magic talismans like a common FOX newscaster. Alex Jones does that, not someone “on our side”. Wear your &%^^%* mask and save a nurse’s life, if not your own. It’s not hard – they managed to do it all day, why can’t you?