Sense/Anti-sense


First, I must remind everyone that billionaire Rupert Murdoch elbowed his way to the front of the queue to get the vaccine as soon as it was announced, and that all those blithering conservative on-air personalities on Fox News are required to be vaccinated, just to put this story on Fox News’ promotion of quacks in perspective. It lists ten of the COVID denialist and anti-vax and tepid apologists for inaction who have been featured on the network many hundreds of times. Names you should learn to recognize and scorn: Marc Siegel, Martin Makary, Nicole Saphier, Rand Paul, Brett Giroir, Janette Nesheiwat, Jayanta Bhattacharya, Harvey Risch, Scott Atlas, and Peter McCullough. They all have the title of “Dr”, but you should know that the majority of doctors disagree with these scam artists; Fox News has been carefully distilling the population of MDs to purify and isolate the most untrustworthy scum to selectively display on popular programs by even more reprehensible filth like Carlson and Ingraham and Kudlow. You don’t get a prime time opinion/bloviation slot on Fox if you hold a reasonable view of the science.

Contrast that with this genuinely excellent interview with Jonathan Eisen, a biologist at UC Davis. Eisen simply and plainly says what every biologist and informed citizen knows about SARS-CoV-2.

The Omicron variant is way more infectious [than Delta]. It’s horribly contagious. Even people who are boosted are still getting infected. [The vaccine] does not seem to provide a huge protection against getting infected. I think that’s part of why it’s spreading so fast—people who have been vaccinated and/or boosted have mistakenly thought they were not going to get infected, and so they were going maskless everywhere. But if you have five times as many people infected, that’s going to create havoc, and that’s what is happening in New York and the Northeast, where the hospitals are full. They’re already sending people away who have any other types of emergency or nonemergency health needs. I think we’re in for some tough times; that’s my prediction.

Exactly. This is what I’m expecting, too. It’s also what everyone who isn’t brainwashed by Fox News can figure out. So what should we do?

All the evidence right now shows that vaccines are incredibly effective in reducing the risk of severe illness and death from Covid. And this is true even for new variants such as Delta and Omicron, even though the vaccines were not specifically designed for them. One can reduce the risk of severe illness even more by getting a booster shot. This reduction in risk is very, very clear from all the data. The one issue with Omicron that is different than with other variants is that just getting the regular vaccine dose (e.g., two Pfizer shots) does not reduce the risk of severe illness as much as it did for other variants. In other words, to reduce the risk of severe illness or death, it seems that a booster is very important here.

This is what infuriates me. Everyone wants the quick fix, the easy treatment, the simplest, most painless way to prevent this disease, and science provides one: the vaccine. Go in to the clinic or pharmacy, poke, you’re done, death averted. And what happens? People who listen to Fox News whine, “I want an insta-fix, but not that one.” They’d rather dose themselves with hydroxychloroquine or ivermectin or bleach or betadine, treatments that don’t work, than take the medicine proven to work.

In a world with people who refuse the treatment that works, and other people who can’t, for other medical reasons, get the vaccine, what can we do to protect ourselves. That’s also easy. Wear a mask in public.

What I’m hoping is that people do a lot of behavioral intervention that can slow down the spread of the Omicron variant. It goes back to the whole “flattening the curve” thing from before, and there are many things we can do. If you’re in crowded indoor spaces, you can avoid doing things where you have to take off your mask—so, no eating. But even with your mask on, not all masks are created equal. There’s new guidance that has come out in the last few days that cloth masks just aren’t going to cut it against Omicron. They just do not, on their own, filter enough particles out to reduce your exposure when airspace is getting filled with virus. What you want is a KN95 or N95 mask.

Yes. Masks aren’t the imposition the whiny-ass-titty-babies of conservatism pretend they are. When I’m teaching, I wear them continuously all day long with no difficulty, other than that I’m generally soft-voiced and muffling me doesn’t help (I’m working on it by TALKING LOUDER with my teaching voice). I tried to order some N95 masks in time for spring classes, but right now they’re backlogged and horribly expensive, so I settled for N94…still expensive with slow delivery — I think they’re all coming from South Korea — but I’ll double-up with a cloth mask until N95s become more available, I hope. If they do.

Eisen mentions also that he avoids big indoor events, even restaurants, and won’t fly, although he thinks if everyone on the plane takes reasonable precautions it’s probably safe. It’s just that too many people have been infected with the Fox brain-rot. Just glance at YouTube fights over masks on airplanes — people are getting into brawls in the aisles because they refuse to wear a mask. It’s nuts.

I avoid going out because I live in a county where practically no one wears a mask, ever. Even when our governor imposed a mask mandate, briefly, a lot of people ignored it, and our local business wouldn’t enforce it — and even then, half the population was incapable of figuring out that the mask covers your mouth and nose. It was good news when my university reluctantly decided to require masks and vaccines for all of our incoming students, but we’re a tiny island of common sense in an ocean of conservative denialists of basic medical facts.

We also need to worry about the long-term consequences of infection. Idiots like those talking heads on Fox News want to pretend it’s just a kind of flu, you get over it and carry on, but COVID has complications you ignore at your own peril.

That is one of my biggest concerns with this attitude of not worrying about Omicron too much because it might cause less severe symptoms. We know that long Covid is a problem for the other variants. It’s a big problem that is poorly understood medically, but is very clearly a real thing. These are real medical problems that people are having for months to now years after infection. Some people are saying everybody is going to eventually get Omicron, and that’s just the wrong attitude. We can make it so that not everybody gets it, and therefore reduce the risk of long Covid in too many people. We can’t just let it spread to everyone on the globe, because that’s going to be a medical catastrophe. Now is not the time to do nothing and hope for the best. It is the time to take measures while at the same time trying not to damage people’s lifestyles and lives and the economy.

Eisen’s is the kind of sensible voice we ought to have been hearing all along in our news media, providing accurate, honest information. I guess Rupert Murdoch knows that that doesn’t sell, unfortunately. And that’s why we’re screwed right now.

Comments

  1. naturalistguy says

    FYI, if you don’t have N95 or similar masks available, using a 3-ply surgical mask with a cloth mask over it to improve fit does filter better. Cloth masks alone are not effective against Omicron. The best thing you can do to cut your risk of infection is to avoid indoor spaces with people who don’t wear masks.

  2. raven says

    They all have the title of “Dr”, but you should know that the majority of doctors disagree with these scam artists;

    The vaccination rate among MDs is 97%.
    You would probably find more MDs that believe the earth is flat.

  3. chrislawson says

    This is the first year in living memory that Australia has had zero deaths from influenza. Astonishingly, there have also been zero hospital admissions for influenza. The reason, of course, is the lockdowns and social distancing and mask mandates. Flu vaccine uptake has been lower than in previous years, so while it’s obviously a contributor to keeping deaths and hospitalisations down, it doesn’t explain the huge drop in cases and deaths the last 2 years. Over the same time period and under the same restrictions, COVID19 has killed ~1,300 Australians.

    The US is a little trickier as it is still in its flu season so figures are still in flux, but current estimates are 748 deaths in 20/21 thus far compared to 22,000 last year, 34,000 the year before that, and a particular bad 17/18 season with 60,000 flu deaths (that was a particularly severe flu season because of a virulent new H3N2 strain that appeared after the year’s flu vaccine had been developed). Using the same time frame for 20/21, COVID has killed 400,000 Americans compared to the 748 deaths from flu.

    COVID19 is much, much nastier than most influenzas, the big exception being the 1918 strain.

  4. raven says

    But if you have five times as many people infected, that’s going to create havoc, and that’s what is happening in New York and the Northeast, where the hospitals are full.

    In a lot of places, the hospital health care system has already collapsed.
    The wait times in the ER are 10-20 hours and people are literally dying in the waiting room before they can be seen.

    This is all due to the antivaxxers. 95% or so of the Covid-19 virus patients in the ICUs are antivaxxers.

    The problem now is staffing levels. A huge number of health care workers have just burned out and left. It is something like 30% of the nursing staff. A lot of the others have gotten sick with…the Covid-19 virus. Around 5,000 have died from the virus.

    That is what happened to my friend who was working in the Covid-19 virus ICU. She wasn’t supposed to be there due to comorbidities, but they didn’t have anyone else. She lasted a month, caught the virus, and almost died in her own ICU.
    She was vaccinated but was having a hard time getting the vaccines to take, low antibody levels. She got sick and started to crash on the familiar pathway leading to the ventilator and the morgue. There was a happy ending. Her symptom progression just stopped and she went home. Without the vaccines, she would have been dead. The vaccines work.

  5. whheydt says

    Re: chrislawson @ #6…
    The number of deaths from COVID-19 in the US is approaching the upper limit estimate on deaths in the US from the 1918 influenza, at 850K. On the one hand, we have three times the population than we did then. On the other hand, we have vastly better medical knowledge and technology that in 1918-21…if only enough people would respond to it properly.

    So…one can make a case that COVID-19 is at least as bad as the 1918 flu, and quite possibly worse.

  6. whheydt says

    In the news this morning… FDA has approved booster shots for people in the age range of 12 to 15. Personal effect is that the resident grandchild (who is 13) is now eligible for a booster shot.

  7. birgerjohansson says

    In Britain, the NHS is overstretched. Even if omricon kills fewer than other variants, only people with life-threatening diseases get admitted to hospital now. This backlog will hurt and in some cases literally kill patients who needed to be admitted earlier, as some will be initially misdiagnosed and have more dangerous conditions.
    And the grinning blond psychopath just goes on in his office, never leaning, never caring.

  8. chrislawson says

    whheydt@11–

    Indeed. Directly comparing epidemics is difficult but you can make a fair argument that COVID19 might end up in the same ballpark as the 1918 flu for the reasons you’ve mentioned. Both COVID19 and the 1918 flu have high virulence and high infectivity. And Wikipedia (yes, I know) has COVID19 listed as the sixth worst pandemic in history by death toll and it’s still active. By proportion of global population it’s much lower (around 12th).

    And while I agree that we have better medical care now, on the other hand this is the first pandemic I can think of where several political leaders around the world knowingly rejected scientific evidence and public health advice (I’m not counting pre-microbiology epidemics where they didn’t have scientific evidence to reject).

  9. chrislawson says

    birgerjohansson@13–

    Yes, this is what a lot of people seem determined to not understand. As well as the people getting sick and/or dying from COVID directly, there are other people dying or suffering from non-COVID diseases because they can’t get into hospital or ICU, or have their operations postponed.

  10. IX-103, the ■■■■ing idiot says

    Note that biologist John Risen doesn’t say that “saying everybody is going to eventually get Omicron” is incorrect, but that it is “the wrong attitude”.

    With how contagious Omicron is among even the fully vaccinated, I think it is inevitable that almost everyone will get at least one version of COVID. You can only have >million new cases a day for so long before all 329 million have had it. What’s wrong is assuming Omicron is mild. It can be mild, and almost always is mild in the fully vaccinated. But there is the chance for severe disease, which is strongly correlated with long COVID.

    So from my perspective, you are going to get COVID. You just have to decide if you want to be vaccinated first or not.

  11. robro says

    IX-103, the ■■■■ing idiot @ #16 — What I’ve heard from a couple of well-informed folks is that while the symptoms might be deemed “mild” by medical authorities that’s compared to ICU, intubation, and death. It can still knock you on your ass for a week or two, and the average person would not consider the symptoms “mild.” Of course, some people are asymptomatic.

  12. says

    This is what infuriates me. Everyone wants the quick fix, the easy treatment, the simplest, most painless way to prevent this disease, and science provides one: the vaccine.

    The selfish and the lazy want a “silver bullet” that solves the problem without any effort or responsibility on their part.

    The thing is, there is a silver bullet – the disease – and it’s killing the won’twear-wolves, the anti-maskers and the anti-vaxxers. They’re getting exactly what they want, just not in the way they expected.

  13. Walter Solomon says

    chrislawson @6

    I actually had the flu during 2017-18 flu season. It came on rather quickly. It was like suddenly I felt bad while riding the light rail and had to vomit which I did in my hat.

    I believe I was diagnosed with H1N2 though IIRC correctly. Despite the vomiting, it was actually pretty mild. I was concerned enough to visit the hospital because how quickly it showed symptoms.

    I had COVID in April of 2020. That shit was no joke. It remains the sickest I’ve felt since becoming an adult and is a high contender for being the worst I ever felt. It was certainly no flu. It was awful.

    I haven’t been sick since that time until now. I believe I’m just getting through an infection from Omicron. It started as a sore throat about a week ago, than became a cough and stuffy nose. I had the J&J shot in March and the Pfizer booster in Sep, so that could be why it has been relatively mild.

  14. brucej says

    I’ve been reliably able to get N-95 and KN95 masks from Home Depot; 3M makes a variety of them for industrial use. In fact I can find 15 different packages in stock in my local store; granted this is a much larger market than Morris MN…but your closest one has similar numbers in stock. https://www.homedepot.com/b/Paint-Paint-Supplies-Paint-Protective-Wear-Paint-Respirators-Masks/Pick-Up-Today/N-5yc1vZcibwZ1z175a5/Ntk-EnrichedProductInfo/Ntt-n95%2Bmask?NCNI-5&storeSelection=2831,3701,2818,2842,2830&sortby=bestmatch&sortorder=none

    Maybe delivery works for you?

  15. unclefrogy says

    well that was a very short period of optimism I think I must have blinked
    Were we just in the “eye of the storm” a few months ago or is it truly just one huge train wreck?

  16. birgerjohansson says

    I can’t believe how fortunate I have been in avoiding the virus. Now I have had my third shot.
    -Being obese and diabetic are two separate risk factors, so I would have been very ill if I had had the disease early on. It helps living in a relatively small town and avoiding most social occasions. I am not surprised that young students get restless but it is incredible that ‘mature’ people are too self-absorbed to wear face masks.

    In Scandinavia the ideologically motivated anti-caution nuts have so far been few, possibly the heritage of decent education systems coupled with more trust for institutions. As for advice, I have none – it is as if all problems in USA have lined up to reinforce each other.
    With a bit of luck Rupert Murdoch might finally die and be replaced with someone less interested in spreading deadly desinformation, but there are plenty of other media that have copied the Fox model.

  17. says

    Antibodies from the vaccine or prior infection are much less effective against Omicron, but T cells are not. Also, Omicron infects the bronchi much more readily than Delta, but infects the lungs slightly less readily. Thus the low mortality rate from Omicron. But woe oh woe our health care system and health care providers.

  18. says

    “Arriaga Borges had previously been “against” vaccination, she said. When asked what her thinking behind that was, Arriaga Borges said she was healthy with no underlying health issues. She never smoked and had no heart or lung problems.”

    Which is not an answer to why she was against it, but as usual the inept media didn’t follow up.

  19. says

    @16 “mild” is a medical term of art that means “not hospitalized”. Almost everyone misinterprets it to refer to the vernacular meaning (given by the dictionary as “gentle in nature or behavior”).

  20. raven says

    U.S. Sets Global Daily Record of Over 1 Million Virus Cases
    Cases nearly doubled versus four days ago as omicron surges
    Officials hopeful that deaths won’t rise as much as infections

    ByJinshan Hong Bloomberg
    January 4, 2022, 12:10 AM ESTUpdated onJanuary 4, 2022, 1:03 AM EST

    More than 1 million people in the U.S. were diagnosed with Covid-19 on Monday as a tsunami of omicron swamps every aspect of daily American life.

    The highly mutated variant drove U.S. cases to a record, the most — by a large margin — that any country has ever reported. Monday’s number is almost double the previous record of about 590,000 set just four days ago in the U.S., which itself was a doubling from the prior week.

    U.S. Sets Global Daily Record of Over 1 Million Virus Cases.

    I can’t add any more to the headline.
    I had to go shopping today. I was running low on a few things, one of which was cat food.
    Here it is the 21st century and instead of a jet pack or flying car, I’m risking my life to buy…cat food.
    The future was overrated.

  21. birgerjohansson says

    Raven @ 31
    Yup. This is what happens when anti-sense becomes a political ideology.
    Next up: Are pixies the cause of unemployment in Britain? Read Daily Mail.

  22. says

    TPM – “The Stories Are Endless”:

    Just last month GOP activist and Orange County Deputy DA Kelly Ernby was speaking at an anti-vaccine rally put on by local Turning Point USA chapters in Irvine. “There’s nothing that matters more than our freedoms right now,” she told the small but enthusiastic crowd. “Our government for the people and by the people is not going to exist without action of the people.” In 2020 Ernby had run unsuccessfully for a state Assembly seat as a Republican.

    This week Ernby died of COVID-19 at age 46….

    Vice (from last month) – “A COVID-Denying Kickboxing World Champion Just Died From COVID”:

    A three-time world champion kickboxer died at his home in Belgium from complications caused by COVID-19 weeks after discharging himself from the hospital.

    Fred Sinistra, 40, was unvaccinated and would not even use the term COVID-19, his coach Osman Yigin told Belgian outlet SudInfo. Instead, he dismissed COVID-19 as “a little virus” and railed against government restrictions….

    BBC – “France’s Bogdanoff TV twins die of Covid six days apart”:

    Grichka and Igor Bogdanoff became France’s most famous twins, hosting a TV science and science-fiction show in the 1980s on a spaceship set.

    They died of coronavirus within days of each other in hospital, Grichka on 28 December and his brother on Monday.

    Aged 72, the brothers had not been vaccinated against Covid-19.

    Their friends said they were convinced their healthy lifestyle would protect them and they were admitted to hospital in mid-December.

    Although their families did not specify the cause of their deaths, their lawyer Edouard de Lamaze confirmed they had both contracted the virus.

    Asked why they had chosen not to have the Covid vaccines if they were not themselves anti-vaxxers, Luc Ferry said on Monday: “Like Igor, Grichka wasn’t antivax, he was just antivax for himself.

    “They were both athletic, with not an inch of fat, and they thought the vaccine was more dangerous than the virus.”…

    (Their story is chock full of WTF.)TPM – “The Stories Are Endless”:

    Just last month GOP activist and Orange County Deputy DA Kelly Ernby was speaking at an anti-vaccine rally put on by local Turning Point USA chapters in Irvine. “There’s nothing that matters more than our freedoms right now,” she told the small but enthusiastic crowd. “Our government for the people and by the people is not going to exist without action of the people.” In 2020 Ernby had run unsuccessfully for a state Assembly seat as a Republican.

    This week Ernby died of COVID-19 at age 46….

    Vice (from last month) – “A COVID-Denying Kickboxing World Champion Just Died From COVID”:

    A three-time world champion kickboxer died at his home in Belgium from complications caused by COVID-19 weeks after discharging himself from the hospital.

    Fred Sinistra, 40, was unvaccinated and would not even use the term COVID-19, his coach Osman Yigin told Belgian outlet SudInfo. Instead, he dismissed COVID-19 as “a little virus” and railed against government restrictions….

    BBC – “France’s Bogdanoff TV twins die of Covid six days apart”:

    Grichka and Igor Bogdanoff became France’s most famous twins, hosting a TV science and science-fiction show in the 1980s on a spaceship set.

    They died of coronavirus within days of each other in hospital, Grichka on 28 December and his brother on Monday.

    Aged 72, the brothers had not been vaccinated against Covid-19.

    Their friends said they were convinced their healthy lifestyle would protect them and they were admitted to hospital in mid-December.

    Although their families did not specify the cause of their deaths, their lawyer Edouard de Lamaze confirmed they had both contracted the virus.

    Asked why they had chosen not to have the Covid vaccines if they were not themselves anti-vaxxers, Luc Ferry said on Monday: “Like Igor, Grichka wasn’t antivax, he was just antivax for himself.

    “They were both athletic, with not an inch of fat, and they thought the vaccine was more dangerous than the virus.”…

    (Their story is chock full of WTF.)

  23. says

    TPM – “The Stories Are Endless”:

    Just last month GOP activist and Orange County Deputy DA Kelly Ernby was speaking at an anti-vaccine rally put on by local Turning Point USA chapters in Irvine. “There’s nothing that matters more than our freedoms right now,” she told the small but enthusiastic crowd. “Our government for the people and by the people is not going to exist without action of the people.” In 2020 Ernby had run unsuccessfully for a state Assembly seat as a Republican.

    This week Ernby died of COVID-19 at age 46….

    Vice (from last month) – “A COVID-Denying Kickboxing World Champion Just Died From COVID”:

    A three-time world champion kickboxer died at his home in Belgium from complications caused by COVID-19 weeks after discharging himself from the hospital.

    Fred Sinistra, 40, was unvaccinated and would not even use the term COVID-19, his coach Osman Yigin told Belgian outlet SudInfo. Instead, he dismissed COVID-19 as “a little virus” and railed against government restrictions….

    BBC – “France’s Bogdanoff TV twins die of Covid six days apart”:

    Grichka and Igor Bogdanoff became France’s most famous twins, hosting a TV science and science-fiction show in the 1980s on a spaceship set.

    They died of coronavirus within days of each other in hospital, Grichka on 28 December and his brother on Monday.

    Aged 72, the brothers had not been vaccinated against Covid-19.

    Their friends said they were convinced their healthy lifestyle would protect them and they were admitted to hospital in mid-December.

    Although their families did not specify the cause of their deaths, their lawyer Edouard de Lamaze confirmed they had both contracted the virus.

    Asked why they had chosen not to have the Covid vaccines if they were not themselves anti-vaxxers, Luc Ferry said on Monday: “Like Igor, Grichka wasn’t antivax, he was just antivax for himself.

    “They were both athletic, with not an inch of fat, and they thought the vaccine was more dangerous than the virus.”…

    (Their story is chock full of WTF.)

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