Thursday, December 30, 2021

COVID Hopefulness

Ever the contrarian, I feel hope despite the impending COVID "blizzard". More hopeful, in fact, than at any time since this all started. A few things (with italicized comments from the Slog's biochemist technical consultant, who helped make sure there are no major blunders):

If You're Vaxxed You'll Be Fine

My Republican friends ignore experts and go un-vaxxed. My Democratic friends ignore experts and remain certain they risk agonizing death despite vaccination. No one simply takes the guidance at face value. So let me do the lonely thing and reinforce expert opinion. The following statement is 1. true and 2. easily ascertainable, but would provoke piqued blowback from Americans on both sides of the political divide. Sigh. Here goes:

If you're vaccinated and boosted, your chance of developing a really serious case - e.g. requiring hospitalization - is very, very low. As low as plenty of perils we ordinarily dismiss. Follow local guidelines and enjoy your life.

You might "get COVID", but it almost surely won't be serious....even if you have asthma, a cardiac stent, are old, etc (I'm all three). So, listen, progressives: if you have a neurotic aversion to the notion of "getting COVID" after months of excessive panic, well, knock it off. You can't afford to indulge neurosis amid crisis. This is not The Andromeda Strain, so lay off the MSNBC, which wants you scared and angry. And listen, conservatives: get vaccinated for god's sake (and lay off the FOX, which wants you scared and angry). But I suspect many of you will get vaccinated soon, per the next item.

Vax Will Happen

People who used to get belligerent when I begged them to vax suddenly mostly just listen quietly, with a worried expression. It's different. I expect a decent slice will vaccinate amid the Omicron "blizzard". Here's why.

The seldom-acknowledged "problem" with this disease is that it hasn't been really massively infectious or deadly. It's been just under the threshold of obvious palpability, and it's notoriously hard to get people to be proactive about relatively subtle risks. Every measure to date has been in the interest of civic duty, not critical self-preservation, and "Let's take steps (masking, distancing, etc.) to reduce infection load so ERs don't fill up with the low percentage who get it bad" is a much more subtle pitch (and tougher sell!) than "Act immediately or die".

Now, with Omicron much more infectious, the urgency level is clearly rising, and my Republican friends are feeling it, palpably. I'd be surprised if we don't see upticks in vaccination over the next few weeks.

Also: Trump's finally coming around to taking full-voiced credit for the vaccine (which is not unreasonable), and Biden's been smart enough not to begrudge it (if he were really smart, he'd give Trump a medal, let him really soak up the praise, and transform into Mr. Vaccine...because the dude, beyond all else, is a hell of a salesman).

Omicron May Peak Early

Omicron is perhaps a little less dangerous but vastly more contagious. I'm not a virologist, but I suspect it may burn hot and fast. It will not be pretty, but (per #1) if you're vaccinated, you'll be okay and (per #2) more people might get vaccinated. In any case, I suspect this will be the final big hump to get over (plenty of little ones to follow, however). Hopefully this phase will last weeks, not months. But we'll see.

[Technical consultant]: It's impossible to predict, but logically it should be mild and persistent, that's the way infectious diseases often go.

Jillions Of New Therapies

There are so many therapies now, with many, many more destined to spill onto the market in coming months. It's not great that market factors have hijacked so many researchers into working on this pathogen (there are other problems in the world, and our formerly staid medical R&D platforms have been, perhaps permanently, transformed into a mob of feverishly trend-mongering gold-miners). But at least we'll have a full repertoire of treatments soon for COVID.

Bright Future

As with any moonshot, we've improved a ton of science and tech with rippling benefits. We're eons better positioned for future pandemics. We appear to have maybe solved COVID/SARS, a major sword of Damocles dangling over our heads for some time now (I don't understand how this astounding report didn't attract wide attention). And we have evolved decades' worth of virus/vaccine know-how.

[Technical consultant]: The army vaccine report you link to shows it's only been through phase 1. I think it's good that the media are not gushing prematurely, for once...

Few people realized that among the myriad risk factors for mankind, viral pandemic is the one that (until Musk and his tech pals sounded the AI alarm) has been most troubling the smartest people. While COVID was painful, it wasn't "Everybody Dies". And when "Everybody Dies" arises, we are immeasurably better prepared than we were three years ago. And that's freaking awesome.

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