//Masks for Dummies XXIII

Masks for Dummies XXIII

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

In May, I wrote what I thought might be the last installment to this Masks for Dummies (MFD) ad hoc column series. The discussion of the horrible pernicious and forever evolving SARS-CoV-2 virus, aka the ‘Coronavirus,’ ended with the sad realization that too many lives were lost because of it. At the time of the last MFD article, we had lost 993,717 Americans to this vicious disease, with over 81 million infections. Five months later, our death toll is 1,059,605, with over 96 million infections. That’s an average death rate of about 13 thousand per month for the past five months. 

Covid is still killing people.

Yet we can say that we’re doing much better as a nation in fighting this virus—at least for now. We will never forget the horrific days when three to four thousand Americans died per day because of Covid. Those were very scary and sad times, which are behind us now. Still, we have to be vigilant for the future. 

We may be currently winning the Covid war with our vaccines, but this virus is highly adaptable and smart. We could easily fall back into darker times.

Before the summer began, we celebrated that we had left the ‘pandemic phase’ of Covid. That is, we have left the ‘fulminate stage’ of the pandemic where there were sudden and sustained spikes of infection and death. But the pandemic is not over. We are still averaging over 400 deaths per day. And the world is doing worse.

Here in Fresno County, we’ve had 2,859 confirmed Covid deaths.

Despite President Biden’s September 60 Minutes interview with Scott Pelley, the pandemic is still a concern. In his interview, Biden said: “The pandemic is over…If you notice, no one’s wearing masks. Everybody seems to be in pretty good shape, and so I think it’s changing….”  

But is 400 American Covid deaths a day an acceptable statistic to declare to the nation that the pandemic is ‘over’? Dr. Megan Ranney, director at Brown University’s school of public health, doesn’t seem to think so. She tweeted “malarkey” in response to Biden’s public health gaffe. 

She explained: “Is the pandemic DIFFERENT? Sure. We have vaccines & infection-induced immunity. We have treatments. We have tests (while they last). The fatality rate is way down. And so, we respond to it differently. But over? With 400 deaths a day?!”  

The pandemic is not over. 

The White House acknowledged this and had to backtrack the president’s remarks. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra clarified: “The president was reflecting what so many Americans are thinking and feeling….” 

But thoughts and feelings aren’t facts. And the facts of the matter are that Covid is still an ever-present danger and concern.  

Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Biden’s chief medical advisor, made this clear: “I’ll say it even today—Four hundred deaths per day is not an acceptable number as far as I’m concerned.”  

In fact, Covid is the third leading cause of death in the U.S. after heart disease and cancer.

The total annual deaths from Covid surpasses the last four of the ten current leading causes of American deaths. That is, per year in the United States, there are more coronavirus deaths than all the deaths from Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, influenza and pneumonia, nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis combined. So for our leaders to declare the pandemic ‘over’ is irresponsible and dangerous. It’s just not a true reflection of our reality.

Part of the problem is that we aren’t properly using the weapons we have to fight the virus. In addition, only about half of our population is vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2. 

According to the CDC’s records, only about 48.8% of the American population over 5-yrs old has been vaccinated with their first booster dose. Vaccination rates for completing the first two shots in the primary series were better, at 67.9%. However, our goal is to protect our entire nation and put an end to this damn coronavirus. We won’t be able to really take control of the pandemic when over 30% of the population never finished their first pair of shots or when over 50% haven’t received their first booster. One of the reasons is that the coronavirus is constantly mutating and evolving. We must adapt to the virus’ rapid adaptation and circumvention of our medical technology and continue to use our vaccinations to stay ahead of the enemy. Unfortunately, one shot is just not enough. 

Dr. Fauci wants the American people to know: “How we respond and how we’re prepared for the evolution of these variants is going to depend on us, and that gets to the other conflicting aspect of this—is the lack of a uniform acceptance of the interventions that are available to us in this country—We are not where we need to be if we’re going to be able to, ‘live with the virus,’ because we know we’re not going to eradicate it….”

Of course, when Dr. Fauci acknowledges that “we’re not going to eradicate it,” he is referring to our collective human accomplishment of eradicating smallpox in 1980, and how we won’t be able to do the same for the coronavirus. He’s not accepting defeat; it’s just science. The smallpox virus is very different from the coronavirus. One hardly changes and is transmitted through face-to-face interactions. The other is constantly mutating and evolving and can be spread as an aerosol. Different viruses require different tools to defeat them.

This is why wearing your N95 or KN95 mask is still essential.

Wearing your mask is still important to protect yourself from Covid and other airborne diseases, like influenza, despite the fact that most Americans have already abandoned their face protection. According to an Axios/Ipsos poll released last month, at least 66% of Americans only occasionally or never wear a mask in public indoor spaces. Hopefully, this same 66% are among the 48.8% of fully vaccinated Americans. If not, they will likely get infected the next time the coronavirus wisps around their airways. And, without any vaccination, unmasked people are susceptible to developing severe Covid and dying.

You don’t want to be one of the daily 400. This pandemic is not over. So get vaccinated and boosted and carry your mask with you in public—you’d be a dummy not to pull it out and use it when you need it.