Coronavirus general discussion and chit-chat

I captured an image of a graph on world-o-meters that showed the State of Washington having two or three days with a covid death count of -1 and one of -3. Clearly we were not having people rising from the grave. I hope.

Yeah… it might solve one problem (people dying from covid), but it would create others.

This story brought me to tears-- of frustration.

The pandemic had hit late but hard in the Appalachian highlands — the mountainous region that includes Southwest Virginia and Northeast Tennessee — and over the winter many of its victims had ended up on ventilators tended by [Nurse Emily] Boucher and her fellow nurses at Johnston Memorial Hospital.

Conspiracy theories about the pandemic and lies recited on social media — or at White House news conferences — had penetrated deep into their community. When refrigerated trailers were brought in to relieve local hospitals’ overflowing morgues, people said they were stage props. Agitated and unmasked relatives stood outside the ICU insisting that their intubated relatives only had the flu. Many believed the doctors and nurses hailed elsewhere for their sacrifices were conspiring to make money by falsifying covid-19 diagnoses.

Boucher and her colleagues were pained by those attacks — and infuriated by them. Unlike their exhaustion, that anger rarely showed on their faces, but it was often there: as they scrolled Facebook to see local ministers saying God was greater than any virus, or stood in line with unmasked grocery shoppers who joked loudly about the covid hoax.

On that December morning when she became the first person to receive the coronavirus vaccine in the 21 counties served by her hospital’s parent company, Ballad Health, Boucher breathed deeply as she described what she and her co-workers were up against.

In the coming days, though, friends began texting her screenshots of comments on Facebook, where local TV news stations had posted photos and videos of her inoculation.

Commenters speculated that the syringe might not have actually contained any vaccine. Others said she must be getting kickbacks from Pfizer. Boucher returned to her crowded ICU knowing that to some in her community, her vaccination was not a turning point and she was not a hero. She was just another part of the hoax.

“You’re living this reality that people don’t understand, and there’s nothing you can say that will convince them,” Boucher, 40, would later explain. “They just say you’re lying.”

This is the beginning of a very long article. To think that millions in this country buy into this “hoax” bullshit, even while people are dying. Sometimes their own family members…

My sister is in that camp. I stopped talking to her after her husband’s entire family nearly died of COVID-19 and they all still peddle Trump bullshit.

I just got a random text message from an 855 number asking “if we can count on you to encourage a few people to get the vaccine too? Y yes, N no”

I assume it’s a scam or phish with a high text response cost. Anybody familiar with?

Of course a sneeze or cough can travel about 8 m (24 ft) whether it has CoVid aerosols in it or not, so that’s something to be aware of. I don’t wear a mask anymore if I don’t have to, and I was never very good about hand sanitizing, and I worked in a class of 30+ students everyday through the pandemic. I’ve been twice-vaxxed so I think I’m relatively safe, but we shall see. Watch for sneezers and coughers still.

Strange thing is even Trump recommends getting vaccinated. I didn’t see him wink as he said it either.

That’s one of the most perplexing aspects of the whole situation. People who think that Trump is the best thing since sliced bread totally ignore his statements about the vaccine.

Yeah – the vaccine was his promise of salvation, but then when it didn’t happen before election day, suddenly the vaccine is evil as far as his supporters go.

If trumpy had <gag> gotten re-elected, he would have taken personal credit for the vaccine (which he did at first anyway, before the election), renamed it The Donald Vaccine, promoted the holy hell out of it, and all of his MAGAts would have lined up for a swig of kool-aid a shot. So we’d have COVID under control… but we’d still be dealing with a PLAGUE.

I’m a very lazy person and tend to believe we get the politicians we deserve. If Donny had taken COVID seriously I probably wouldn’t have worked so many volunteer hours for Biden.

Hubs still thinks that COVID is just a bad flu and has “forgotten” how long he was sick.


OK, so I have a scientific/factual question.

Cases are going up. The conventional wisdom reaction seems to be, then the delta variant must evade the vaccines (at least to a greater extent than the “original”), because if it didn’t, cases wouldn’t be going up at all, no matter how much more virulent it is.

That seems to make logical sense, but I just wanted to make sure that it actually does, and that I’m not missing something. So is this a safe assumption for a non-scientist like me to make?

Virulent means ‘severe or harmful in it’s effects’. The word you were looking for was ‘infectious’.

Infection could be going up because people are becoming less careful. Perhaps they are. But it does appear that the delta strain is more infectious.

The ‘infectiousness’ of a strain has several dimensions. It is reported that the delta strain

(1) is shed in larger quantities. And -

(2) Is shed sooner after infection (giving more chance to infect before the person is quarantined, or starts wearing a mask because their partner is sick). And -

(3) is partially able to evade the vaccines. And -

(4) May have a different demographic profile than the earlier strain. But -

(5) I have not seen a report that an individual virion, or equal quantity of virus, is more infectious, which would be a logical requirement (in young people) if (4) was true.

The delta strain may also be more virulent: young people may be getting hurt worse. Mostly it seems that young people are just proportionately more likely to be infected than vaccinated people, but perhaps the strain is more severe or harmful in young people, and perhaps the strain is proportionally more infectious in young people.

So – not must evade vaccines – there can be and appear to be other reasons as well.

Don’t quite follow what you mean. If say 40% of a population was vaccinated and there was a ‘churn’ of new cases in the un-vaxxed 60%, that rate of infection could be fairly stable because infection is a statistical response to behaviour, which we can assume remains unchanged because the un-vaxxed are unlikely to do things to reduce their or others’ risk of infection.

If Variant Alpha infects people at X% at 1.5 metres, but the new Variant Omega infects X% at 1.0 metres the rate of infection will rise without anything else changing including behaviour, because more people are suddenly within infective range.

And we can predict it still won’t change even then because there is just no way of getting some people to do the right thing.

It is not a safe assumption to make because many states dropped mask mandates in favor of advising people to wear a mask if they are unvaccinated. We would have to believe that people in those states who are not masked are only those who are vaccinated and to believe so is ludicrous after last year’s many mask protests. It would also require the belief that unvaccinated people are still spread uniformly throughout the country as before the vaccine was available, and we know that is also not true.

So what we are seeing now, given that over 99.5% of people currently being hospitalized are unvaccinated, is what happens when unvaccinated people are no longer protected from themselves (by enforced mask wearing), and worse, what happens when they live among largely like-minded people.

The more unvaccinated, unmasked people out there encountering each other, the more cases there will be in that area. That’s why reports saying cases are “doubling” in a most states is a misleading statement at best: here where most adults are vaccinated that means we are seeing the 4th of July leading to twice as many cases as last week but it’s a matter of going from 20 cases per million residents a day newly diagnosed to 40 a day, while in other states with much lower vaccination rates it hundreds to thousands doubling, not tens.

This would only be true if nearly 90% of the population were immune, preferably by being fully vaccinated with a highly effective vaccine. Then we’d see if herd immunity is achieved where you’d have a small background of breakthrough cases. I don’t know of any population in the US that has that (NYT says McKinley, NM is that vaxxed but their website disputes that).

All we have are studies that focus on the % of breakthrough infections per variant.

That’s not the assumption that people are making as far as case numbers going up; rather, the assumption is that it is spreading like wildfire among unvaccinated people, who then occasionally infect partially or fully-vaccinated people.

Each case is different, too, to some extent. You could have a scenario in which mostly vaccinated elderly people go on a tour bus. Someone who is either vaccinated or not then gives it everyone else because everyone is in close proximity to each other and, assuming they have some degree of protection, let their guard down with things like masking. Scores of vaccinated people could become infected if they are repeatedly exposing themselves to one or more infected people. Viral loads are higher in unvaccinated people than in those who’ve been jabbed. And of course underlying conditions can increase the severity, even in people who’ve been vaccinated.

It seems to be a combination of both. The delta variant is clearly more infectious or “fit,” as virologists put it. It produces more than 1000 times more copies of itself in the upper respiratory tract, so there’s clearly going to be a higher viral load associated with it.

There are still a LOT of unvaccinated people out there - a lot of wood for this forest fire to burn. This population would have been at risk even without the mutations, but it’s a firestorm that moves much, much faster now. If my understanding’s correct, a lot of your earlier outbreaks were caused by one or two super spreaders who, relative to other infected individuals, carried considerably higher viral loads. This explains why not every single contact with an infected person led to an infection - this was actually studied in college dorms if I recall correctly.

With the delta variant, however, the dynamics have changed, and not in a good way. Because the variant replicates much more aggressively, you are much, much more likely to contract the virus now if you happen to come into contact with an infected person. Moreover, the changes in the spike protect seem to allow the virus to slip past some of the antibodies that vaccines produce, which seems to be why the vaccines are slightly less effective at stopping the initial attack on the body. What the vaccines do, though, they do well, which is to stimulate the body’s response so that it effectively goes to war with the virus but doesn’t overreact. And that is why vaccinated people are still mostly unlikely to go to the hospital.

That being said, if you are immunocompromised or have underlying conditions, there will be different outcomes depending on the individual. The biggest mistake that someone who’s 45 or older and been vaccinated could make is to assume that they’re totally invulnerable to the virus. That’s just not true. Although vaccination is clearly a statistically validated form of protection, you’re still taking some serious risks if you go into a large indoor public gathering without a mask for an extended period of time.

The other concern, though, is that it’s always mutating. It could eventually mutate into something that somehow evades or overwhelms the layer of protection that we’ve received from the vaccine, which is why I think CDC and federal officials are being a little flat-footed right now. They should err on the side of caution and they don’t seem to be. The guidance in place predates delta. It’s a different world now.

Yeah, well, there are a couple of problems I always run up against considering that point:

  1. Making plans on contingencies that “could eventually” happen is pretty difficult. I mean, I know that the feds have plans “just in case” we’re invaded by Canada moose, but those are eventualities, and this is now. It’s hard to see an endgame here, especially considering…

  2. I’m skeptical that bringing back mandates or lockdowns will do any practical good at this point. Those who most need to mask won’t, and most importantly, never were. The stupid red state laws are in place, and there’s not a lot of options to deal with them. By the numbers, we’re still mostly dealing with generally stupid people as the targets, and the federal system reduces our possibilities severely.

I’m starting to think that carrots, like the lotteries for vaccinations, are more likely to succeed than sticks at this point, especially factoring in the resistance most sticks will face in drawn out legal disputes. In the meantime, I’m not sure there are many options that will do practical good at this point. Once again, the people who most need the restrictions will ignore them anyway, fully supported by their authorities in a lot of cases. Yeah, the CDC could reverse themselves right now, but what real, practical good would it do? Blue states could lock down and reimpose restrictions right now (and some are at least starting to do so), but what happens when their red areas refuse to go along and the coffers to help businesses and individuals run dry?

Reopening could be bad, but I don’t see any realistically possible scenario that’s any better, the wisdom of fantasies of gunpoint vaccinations notwithstanding. I guess we’ll have to see what further guidance happens. Many people who are smarter than I am have been considering these issues, and I’m inclined to trust them, especially given that their boss isn’t a narcissistic asshole anymore.

I guess what it comes down to for me is that I think the state of the virus will outlast even the strictest country’s collective and government will and resources, and I’m not hearing any practical, effective idea to address that. I’m just not sure what we CAN do, never mind what we SHOULD.