The stark truth

There I was yesterday, teaching, and one of the first things I told my students was that the pandemic was not over, we all ought to be wearing masks and social distancing, but that the university had decided not to enforce any precautions, and I couldn’t do anything to make them do anything even as simple as wearing a mask. The best I could do is offer to teach the class synchronously over Zoom. Of course I was wearing a mask. I might have been the only person in the building doing so. I know none of the students were. I can’t blame them, since everything from the president of the US to local campus policy is telling them the pandemic is over.

It’s not.

Here’s the truth: the pandemic is not over. It’s much worse than you have been led to believe. And unless you’ve spent the past several years reading scientific studies on the subject, it can be hard to convey just how wrong the public perception of COVID really is. Everything from how it’s spread, to how it’s prevented, to what it does once it’s in your body, is being tragically misunderstood.

None of this is an accident. It’s not your “fault” if you aren’t a virologist, immunologist, epidemiologist, or evolutionary biologist. It’s the job of experts and trusted voices to convey the truth and give you guidance. Not only have they failed at this, they have engaged in an active disinformation campaign dedicated to making the pandemic “disappear”. This has not been the result of a classic caricature of conspiracy — some tiny council of elites, gathered in the shadows to craft policy out of whole cloth. What we’re actually witnessing is the quiet collusion of class interest. This form of conspiracy is a feature of cultural hegemony, and it has aligned itself in direct opposition to public health and scientific reality. A “conspiracy” of this sort takes place in full view of the public. Every actor within it has openly telegraphed motivations that we are all taught to see as acceptable: keeping the current economic system intact at all costs.

From the moment humanity learned of the novel coronavirus, uncertainty swirled. SARS-CoV-2, named for its terrifying viral cousin, seemed to be even worse than SARS: more deadly, more transmissible, better at evading detection. A singular question arose in the minds of two very different classes of people: “How do we survive this?” For one of those classes, the question was literal: how do we avoid being killed by a disease that seems to be spreading and killing invisibly and indiscriminately? For the other class, the question being asked in boardrooms and capitols was really: “Could this dislodge our grip on power?”

That last question is a good one. Who is worrying about power?

One good place to check is the World Economic Forum in Davos, where all the richest and most influential people in the world converge every year to talk about controlling the masses. Are they concerned about dying of COVID? Do they have plans to protect themselves from the virus? They sure do.

The first thing attendees get is a rapid COVID test and an electronic badge. The badge is linked to a conference database that controls a little light that only activates if you pass the test. You will not be admitted to the meeting unless your badge indicates that you’ve taken the daily test and are free of the disease.

Tests are free. Masks are free. The staff are required to wear them, but the rich people are not.

Inside the annual meeting’s venues, areas will be cleaned, disinfected, and ventilated several times a day. Additional state-of-the-art ventilation systems have been installed in areas with restricted air circulation. Hand sanitizers will be widely available throughout the meeting venues.

Similar precautions have been taken in the offices and factories of attendees, to protect the workers. Ha ha, fooled you, of course they’re not expected to do that. That would cost money.

Do the richest people in the world know something you don’t? They certainly do, because they’ve been investing a lot of effort in keeping you ignorant and confused. Otherwise, we might demand unthinkable things like improved air circulation in our classrooms and labs, and a routine testing policy, and required masking with good masks provided by the university (to be fair, the university did provide N95 masks to the faculty last year. We got 3. Just 3.)

Do you realize that you’re an exploited peon yet?


  1. rorschach says

    This is getting a lot of social media attention, but regrettably not media attention. I have seen some pics now that also show UV-C devices to sterilise the air, they are little blue boxes near the ceilings, air flow is directed to them so they can zap the bugs in the air.
    If a restaurant had these, plus required a negative PCR, I would be back indoor-dining in an instant. But for the peasants, it’s only coffins and disability pension. 3 million people have disappeared from the US job market since the pandemic started, a mixture of death, disability and early retirement mostly. HEPA filters might have been cheaper.

    Maybe the Davos organisers were just clever little buggers who took this as an opportunity to showcase to the world what could be done if the political will was there. (Yeah, nah, I don’t believe that either).

  2. imback says

    January has been the cruelest month for covid hospitalizations. In January 2021, the US had up to 5 hospitalizations per 100,000 population per day. In January 2022 it was up to 6, and in 2023 so far it’s been up to 2. So better this winter but not by a lot. I still wear my mask when indoors around strangers.

  3. whywhywhy says

    Davos is a perfect example of how not to solve the world’s problems.
    First, ignore the needs of the vast majority of the population and whatever you do, don’t ask them what they need.
    Second, let the richest and most powerful people determine the agenda.
    Three, make sure the rich/powerful never come into real contact with the vast masses.
    Four, say nice things for the sake of PR but in the end only invest in solutions that insure the rich/wealthy stay that way.

  4. Becca Stareyes says

    There’s a scene in Feed by Mira Grant where the narrator, a journalist covering a US presidential campaign some two decades post-zombie pandemic, is at a fundraiser and their narration notes how the precautions against an outbreak are both present and unobtrusive, so that rich people are both safe and can pretend nothing has changed. The entire series focuses on the difference between security and security theater, and about how things like culture and class shape one’s experience.

    This reminds me of that: while things like masked staff and testing are visible, the air handling precautions aren’t, and the extra precautions means the attendees have less risk going unmasked.

  5. numerobis says

    The pandemic is over except in China: we don’t have epidemic waves of COVID. Instead we just have constant levels of COVID, killing one person per million per day.

    I have a lot fewer nosebleeds now because I wear a mask a lot more often, which keeps my nose more humid. It’s nice. Just hope my parents don’t keep over early from this new leading cause of death.

  6. raven says

    As of today, the average number of people dying of Covid-19 virus in the USA is 528. It is up over the last two weeks.

    The low point was July, 2021 with 200 deaths per day.


    TWO-WEEK CHANGE ↑ 7.1%

    Notes: Data as of Jan. 13, 5:10 p.m. ET
    Source: state officials and NBC News

    However, the tally of deaths has yet to approach the July 2021 low, when an average of fewer than 200 deaths a day were recorded.

  7. springa73 says

    Just recovering now from my first bout of Covid – symptoms are getting better but I’m still isolating because I still test positive.

    Unfortunately, Covid is now going to be as established a part of the disease landscape as the various kinds of flu.

  8. says

    Since there are some government officials at Davos, the rich demand these precautions to keep from being infected by government cooties. Well, except for the oligarchs who actually are de facto government officials.

  9. says

    As I’ve stated before, members of our organization have and will continue to mask up, have all the vaccinations and maintain distancing since we all have risk factors that make us vulnerable to life-long debilitating Covid. We don’t care what the drooling maskless anti-vax morons think or say!

  10. pilgham says

    Assuming we can trust the stats. deaths have been pretty constant since last April at something like 400 a day give or take a hundred. It seems to go up and down pretty much at random, although we do seem to be having a small surge now. But can we trust the stats? If someone gets Covid, seemingly recovers but dies a couple of months later, is that counted? And should it be? The real question is whether the government is keeping on top of this. Apparently the crowd at Davos are doing protective measures for themselves, regardless.

  11. says

    About that covid/flu BS:

    statistics for flu are based on thorough data collecting over decades
    statistics for covid were never correct or complete due to politically motivated intentional mis-reporing and under-reporting. And, in 2023 statistics are mostly no longer being reported with any attempt at completeness or accuracy and are certainly NOT being reported to the public.
    covid is year round. So, being prudent and protecting yourself from it never ends
    flu is seasonal (4-5 months a year) with no need for protection from it for most of the year
    covid currently kills 150,000 people a year (best estimates by epidemiologists)
    flu typically kills an average of 65,000 people a year
    covid currently hospitalizes millions each year
    flu usually hospitalizes a ~10,000 people each year
    covid vaccines are no longer being developed for the latest strains and the 5 vaccinations available no longer protect against the latest strains. The monoclonal? treatments are a largely ineffectual bandaid only applicable after infection.
    flu vaccines are carefully formulated every year for the current strains
    Long Term Covid is now ocurring at ever higher rates and is usually a life-long debilitating or life threatening situation
    people recover from the flu rather quickly and almost never have long term debilitating problems

  12. René says

    As if I needed more depressing news. I haven’t been able to read it all — but I intend to. Of what I’ve scanned sofar, I’d wish for a comet to finish us all, quickly.

  13. ealloc says

    Some quibbles:

    The article says that the alpha, beta, etc variants were so named based on when immune escape occurred, but I don’t think that’s true. The WHO lists the criteria they used for naming. A decrease in vaccine effectiveness is one of many possibilities, and by my eye it looks like large increases in infectivity is what they usually based it on.

    Also i think it downplayed vaccine effectiveness against omicron too much and some of their summary of it is dubious. my understanding is that it’s true cross-reactivity to omicron and descendants is lower, but multiple vaccine doses are still extremely effective at preventing severe illness.

  14. Devin Dignam says

    I wrote a song about how governments want you to catch COVID. It’s a parody of Michael Jackson’s Beat It, and – despite being almost a year old – it’s as true today as it was when I wrote it.

    (PS: I’ve written 36 other leftist parody songs too)
    (PPS: I just write lyrics – I’m still looking for musicians to get the songs recorded)

  15. numerobis says

    raven@9: the mortality stats at JHU aren’t getting reported like they used to. There’s peaks that will show up one day, then over the next week it looks like a huge increase, and the week after it looks like a huge decline.

    500+ is a bit higher than it’s been in a while but the average appears to be about 400/day or so since summer last year.

  16. torcuato says

    Geez! When it comes to Covid, PZ has gone from overly cautious, safety-at-all-costs, to plain tinfoil hat conspiracy theorist! After reading the “Let them eat plague!” post, one of the first thoughts that came to my mind is reflected perfectly in one of the comments for the post:
    ” I agree ongoing pandemic is a huge problem and there is a lack of information as pointed out, but not sure what would benefit capitalist class by having more sick and dead people as pandemic rages, and if they did know it’s a problem, they are not immune to the same fate, especially as medical systems break down. Long term I don’t see any benefit to anyone by allowing COVID to spread unabated.”

  17. StevoR says

    @ ^ torcuato : I don’t think its “tinfoil hat CT.” The 1% billionaire class are looking after themselves and saying damn the rest of us becuase the measures used to keep the pandemic under control are too economically costly for their liking and reflect how arbitrary our economy is and how quickly it can be changed if we put people ahead of profit. They’ve dlooked at the sats and decided they can afford to sacrifice a lot of people especially older ones that aren’t necessarily that economically valueble (setting aside the ir otyher human and cultural values) and don’t midn if alot of others have their lives hosrtened or made miserable sinc eits not costing them toomuch esp relative to how much actually tackling the disease would be and what actually tackling covid would imply for our economic system eg. der socialismzz!!

  18. StevoR says

    ^ Swear this computer switches letters around on me. FIx :

    They’ve looked at the stats and decided they can afford to sacrifice a lot of people especially older ones that aren’t necessarily that economically valuable (setting aside their other human social and cultural values) and don’t mind if a lot of others have their lives shortened or made miserable & less productive long term since its not costing them too much.

    Plus they focus only short term profit first over long term impacts and implications anyhow. Exhibit A : Funding & pushing Global Overheating Denialism & rechwing fascistic ideologies which suit them now but lead ultimately to carnage, war, revolution, disaster generally, etc..

    Did you not read the OP and contemplate what it implies and means here? The uber rich are taking covid very seriously – but only for themselves and not for the majority of citizens who work and live and make nowhere nearly remotely as much money~wise.

  19. says

    The loonies who run my school district recently voted to suspend our vaccine mandate program, which was working just fine (after some initial kinks). Students who believed the anti-vax propaganda were welcome to take their classes online (lots of choices!), but vaccinations were required to attend in-person classes on campus. Perhaps the powers that be thought on-campus student enrollment would soar if only we didn’t require them to get stuck with those awful pointy needles. (Surprise! It didn’t!) These loonie leaders are some of the same people who said, “Oh, are students failing basic math classes? Let’s ban those classes to increase student success!” Yeah, I work for idiots.