//Masks for Dummies XVII

Masks for Dummies XVII

By I. smiley G. Calderón | smileygcalderon@gmail.com

So, here we are, dear reader – the last month of another incredibly tough year. Can you believe that we’re finally in December? Are you ready to say goodbye to 2021? Honestly, haven’t we been ready since January? Back then, we had only 350,000 American Covid deaths. Today, we’re at the incredibly unthinkable statistic of 790,000 (by the time you read this, we will be well over 800,000).

When will this nightmare stop?

Well, according to models from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), not any time soon. In fact, we should expect somewhere in the order of 820,000 total American Covid deaths by the end of the year – that’s about 30,000 more tragedies to brace ourselves for before the new year.  

Believe it or not, but in the past 30 days, we’ve had more than 1,000 people die from Covid in the U.S. every day. Every. Single. Day.

In Fresno County alone, we’ve had 139 Covid related deaths – about five every day – since this time last month, a 6.5% increase. And, as of the writing of this publication, we’ve had a total Covid infection tally of 144,734 and a total death toll of 2,270 – which is a 1.6% mortality rate. That means, for every 100 positive Covid infections here in the Valley, about two people will die; on average, for every 1000 infections, 20 people die. Over this past month, we’ve had 7,833 new Covid cases, which explains the resulting 139 deaths. This dismal average Covid mortality rate has pretty much been consistent throughout the entire pandemic.

And, sadly, it is in line with the national trend too. Across the country, we’ve had 49,057,988 total U.S. Covid cases. Compared with the nation’s total death toll, this comes out to a 1.6% mortality rate – just like here in Fresno County. So our simple Central California county is pretty much a spot-on reflection of the national trend. 

For every 100,000 Covid infections, about 2,000 people die; for every million, about twenty thousand die. 

Yet, can you believe that, at the beginning of this pandemic, idiots couldn’t stop trying to convince us that Covid wasn’t worse than the ordinary flu? These fools politicized the coronavirus so much and downplayed its danger so radically, mischaracterizing science and mocking our best collective efforts to mitigate community spread that many were led astray. Imagine if we had listened to these buffoons and didn’t take precautions by wearing our masks, social distancing, and getting vaccinated? Our death toll would be much worse than the atrocity it already is.

But we didn’t listen to these blockheads or bend to their stubborn stupidity. Instead, we took on these anti-mask and anti-vax agitators head-on by staying focused on the evolving science at hand and then taking heed. 

For example, the big Covid news is that a new emergent coronavirus variant from South Africa, B.1.1.529, known by the Greek alphabet letter ‘Omicron,’ is now an official ‘Variant of Concern’ (VOC). You may recall back in summer when we discussed emergent variants and their new naming system, but this new strain is very concerning even though no one has died from it just yet (something that is likely to change this month). Despite its zero death count, Omicron is concerning because its transmission rate is some three to six times more contagious than the infamous Delta strain. And it is currently the dominant strain in the U.S. and across the globe.

You see, on average, about 2% of every Covid infection leads to death. So, if Omicron infects more people more rapidly, we will, unfortunately, see that a higher Covid death toll is imminent.

The coronavirus is surprising everyone with its efficient evolution and clever mutations. Omicron has figured out a way to outsmart our immune system so that even Covid survivors with antibody protection are still at risk for reinfection and sickness.

Scientist Professor Francois Balloux, director of the Genetics Institute at University College London, made it clear: “From what we have learned so far, we can be fairly confident that – compared with other variants – Omicron tends to be better able to reinfect people who have been previously infected and received some protection against Covid-19…That is pretty clear and was anticipated from the mutational changes we have pinpointed in its protein structure. These make it more difficult for antibodies to neutralize the virus.” 

University of Cape Town immunologist Wendy Burgers clarified: “Many of the mutations occur in the hotspots on the spike protein, which we know are important for antibodies to bind.”

And, back at home in the United States at Rockefeller University in New York, virologist and laboratory researcher Theodora Hatziioannou echoed the same idea: “We can be quite confident that this new spike is going to be rather resistant to neutralization by antibodies.”

Experts and officials around the globe again sound the alarm for community N-95 and KN-95 respirator/mask usage – something that we’ mask dummies’ have been urging since the pandemic first emerged. Dr. Julian Tang, clinical virologist and an honorary professor at the University of Leicester in the U.K., an expert in respiratory viruses, reminded the public: “We have been through all of this before with the Alpha and Delta variant,” he said. “But the main difference is that the scientific evidence for the effectiveness of masks and social distancing has increased….” 

Professor Tang doubled down: “There is more conviction now amongst scientists that these measures do work to reduce the spread of the virus…”

We’ve already been knowing this for quite some time, dear reader – isn’t it about time for everyone else to get with the program?