Vuja De

Living with Coronavirus
Sunday August 15th, 2021
4:37 AM

As I sit here this morning I am reminded of a line by George Carlin.

“Did you ever get that funny feeling, that Vuja De? Not Déjà vu, this is Vuja De, it’s the strange feeling that somehow none of this has ever happened before.”

I think of this because as I track the pandemic for history’s sake, as I track the course of the virus and our social reactions toward the virus, I am filled with Déjà vu feelings.  The same old tired excuses about compliance with simple public health measures.  Such a lack of actual critical thinking that a lot of Americans do not understand what they are going through.  They do not understand the science and expect science to be static like religion, when science is the opposite; it’s fluid.

The viral news, that is news about the virus and not some internet sensation, seems to me eternal Déjà vu.  Last year with the original strain we had the red states blooming in virus and insisting on being open, just like now.  Last year Sturgis proved to be a super spreader event, but it made SD so much money it is doing it again this year.  Humans, for their individual part rationalize their behavior either through misinformation, conspiracy BS, or a twisted idea about individual liberty which has no sense of public responsibility, or sheer exhaustion to the point of “I don’t give a fuck”. 

The virus doesn’t care.  It is a biological organism struggling to find a niche to live in.  It’s old niche, in bats, is nowhere near as abundant as humans.  Since it jumped the Coronavirus has had an absolute explosion of growth.  So much so it has successfully mutated into several different strains which were each more infectious than the last.  Delta has emerged top dog in the inter viral competition for niche space.  It does not care if you have not been as social as you would like.  It does give a single fuck about you or anyone you love or anything you care about.

A virus is not burdened by thought or the consequences of personal choice.  It breeds to spread and spreads to breed and we are the victim hosts.  If we willfully choose; if we are convinced by bad evidence; if we do not know how to judge evidence well; we are setup for failure.  If our government is so distrusted that a shout of “All hands on deck!”, has little or no effect, we are in a bad situation.  A government needs to be able to rally the population to fight for a common goal, like we did in WW2.

For that type of response to happen people need to see the government as an extension of themselves.  People need to see their local tribe as part and parcel of the larger tribe, and have some pride in that.  Instead, what I see is all sides claiming their side is “America” and by implication labeling the other side as not.  So, when we have really big problems, like the pandemic, like climate change, instead of unified Americans fighting for a purpose, we have all sides arguing and no work being done.

So instead of everyone getting on board with a battle plan to fight and defeat the virus, half of them argue against the science for political sway.  Result, lots of dead people.  Did we learn from that last year?  Nope, because we are repeating the same errors, with the same result.  You know when people convinced by bad evidence or misinformation figure out they were snowed?  When they are dying in the ICU and saying ‘Get the vaccine”.

“Heartbroken Francis Goncalves just buried his entire family, on the same day.  His mum, dad and brother all died within a week after catching Covid.  They had refused to be vaccinated. Scared by misinformation and conspiracy theories.”-Microsoft News

I must have seen a half dozen stories like that, but they won’t be broadcast into the news bubbles people have entered, mostly via Facebook and social media and the algorithms which send people into their very own tailored news cycle.  So the effect on the religious/conservative base that resists vaccinations will be non-existant.

“DeSantis was elected governor in 2018 with a margin of victory of just 0.4 percent, or 32,000 votes. Florida’s official COVID death count is now 39,695, a chilling reminder about the public health impact of DeSantis’ policies, and the fact that politics is about addition, not subtraction.  “He has staked so much more than any Republican currently in office (on downplaying the virus) and that is playing well with the base,” says Jessica Taylor

“Not The Brightest Bulb In The Chandelier” – Stephen King On Gov. Ron DeSantis

It was nice to see that I am not the only one who sees this behavior by conservatives as “Un-American”. That is you are either on team America or on team virus. There are no bystanders in a pandemic. You either fight to stop the virus via masks, distance and vaccines, or you enable the virus by your own refusal to act.

“Many would argue that this lack of concern for other people is immoral. The Golden Rule—do unto others as you would have others do unto you—manifests that concern for the well-being of others is at the core of morality. Those who choose not to take the vaccine ignore this concern and therefore act immorally. But, I would argue that their indifference to the welfare of others is not only immoral, it is also un-American.

At the time of America’s founding, many contemporaries believed that a democracy is possible only if citizens love their country more than themselves. But America’s founders rejected this idea. Human beings are not angels, James Madison said. The founders accepted the reality of human selfishness and developed institutions—especially the checks and balances among the three branches of government—whereby people’s natural selfishness could be directed toward socially useful ends.

But neither Madison nor any of the other founders believed that human beings were merely selfish. Nor did they believe that a democracy could be sustained on selfishness alone. The Federalist Papers were written by James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay in support of the US Constitution drafted in 1787. In Federalist 55, Madison presents this summation of human nature:

“As there is a degree of depravity in mankind which requires a certain degree of circumspection and distrust, so there are other qualities in human nature which justify a certain portion of esteem and confidence. Republican government presupposes the existence of these qualities in a higher degree than any other form.”

Yes, Madison says, human beings are selfish, and one must not ignore that reality when one is deciding how to run a society. But people are not merely selfish. We are also capable of acting with honesty and integrity and of thinking for the good of the whole rather than merely ourselves.  More, Madison argued that this other side of human nature, this concern for others, had to be operative if democracy were to survive. In fact, he insisted that, more than any other form of government, a democracy depended on virtuous citizens.

“Is there no virtue among us? If there be not, we are in a wretched situation. No theoretical checks—no forms of government can render us secure. To suppose that any form of government will secure liberty or happiness without any virtue in the people, is a chimerical idea.”–James Madison

“We all hope that the dread disease of poliomyelitis can be eradicated from our society. With the combined efforts of all, the Salk vaccine will be made available for our children in a manner in keeping with our highest traditions of cooperative national action,” Dwight D Eisenhower

Throughout history, America’s leaders have recognized that without concern for others, without the highest tradition of cooperative national action, democracy is in peril. People who decide not to get vaccinated must understand that their actions are not just selfish, they are un-American.”
–Christopher Beem

“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” — Martin Luther King

“We face not one, but three simultaneous existential emergencies, and while each is distinct, it’s time we understood that, ultimately, they are not different threats at all, but rather different manifestations of the same threat. Meaning that the insurrection crisis, the COVID-19 crisis and the climate-change crisis are really, at bottom, just facets of a misinformation crisis.”–Leonard Pitts Jr

A third or so of America did not, and has not yet been vaccinated.  By choice, because it is free and easy to find now.  In America they had to do raffles with giveaways, free beer, free weed, to convince people, to coax people to reduce their own risk of serious disease from Covid to near zero.  They would rather believe it is a conspiracy to “chip them”, or that it is “the mark of the beast”, than protect themselves and their loved ones.  We have the exact same problem with masks. 

So, the two best tools we have against virus have been systematically smeared by the right to allow them to blame the Biden administration for not making it all go away.  The Human tragedy befalling Americans because of this conduct is not relevant to them. Then we have news about the ‘breakthrough” infections. 

First of all, the vaccines are not designed to stop the spread of the virus but to protect us from dying from the virus.  Only distancing and viral protocols like masking can prevent infection.  A breakthrough infection is a case where a fully vaccinated person catches the virus and gets seriously ill.  Most of what the media is calling “breakthrough” is not, it is normal infection with the vaccine working as intended to work, i.e., no serious illness.

Like I have been saying for weeks if your vaccinated you can catch and spread the virus, and perhaps not even know you have it because the vaccine works so well.  You would be an asymptomatic spreader, so masking in public settings makes sense.  Yet the other day when I took a drive there was not a mask in sight.  Almost no one is masking here, most stores do not have mask requirements and we are mostly vaccinated.  This leads me to think too many are in that misinformation bubble and believing that the vaccine stops you from getting the virus, not that it stops you from dying from the virus.

Global Infected      202,321,369                   206,772,296                       
Increase                  4,450,927
7-day average        635,846 infections diagnosed daily –UP

Global Dead          4,287,172                                          4,354,701
Increase                 67,529
7-day average        9,647 deaths daily –UP

USA Infected         35,739,777                                       36,640,481
Increase             900,704
7-day average        128,672 infections diagnosed daily –UP

USA C-19 deaths      616,718                                         621,253
Increase             4,535
7-day average        647 deaths daily –UP

Maine Infected       71,306                                             72,521  
Increase             1,215
7-day average        173 infections diagnosed daily –UP

Maine deaths         901                                    904
Increase             3
7-day average        0.4285 deaths daily –UP

However new data is seeing actual breakthrough cases more oft than we thought.

“The message that breakthrough cases are exceedingly rare and that you don’t have to worry about them if you’re vaccinated — that this is only an epidemic of the unvaccinated — that message is falling flat,” Harvard epidemiologist Michael Mina told me in the long interview that follows below. “If this was still Alpha, sure. But with Delta, plenty of people are getting sick. Plenty of transmission is going on. And my personal opinion is that the whole notion of herd immunity from two vaccine shots is flying out the window very quickly with this new variant.”

“We’re seeing a lot more spread in vaccinated people,” agreed Scripp’s Eric Topol, who estimated that the vaccines’ efficacy against symptomatic transmission, which he estimated to be 90 percent or above for the wild-type strain and all previous variants, had fallen to about 60 percent for Delta. “That’s a big drop.” Later, he suggested it might have fallen to 50 percent, and that new data about to be published in the U.S. would suggest an even lower rate. On Wednesday, a large pre-print study published by the Mayo clinic suggested the efficacy against infection had fallen as far as 42%.

“The breakthrough problem is much more concerning than what our public officials have transmitted,” Topol continued. “We have no good tracking. But every indicator I have suggests that there’s a lot more under the radar than is being told to the public so far, which is unfortunate.” “I think the problem we have is people — whether it’s the CDC or the people that are doing the briefings — their big concern is, they just want to get vaccinations up. And they don’t want to punch any holes in the story about vaccines. But we can handle the truth. And that’s what we should be getting.”

“Almost all of these calculations about the share of breakthrough cases have been made using year-to-date 2021 data, which include several months before mass vaccination (when by definition vanishingly few breakthrough cases could have occurred) According to those leaked CDC documents, there were, as of late last month, 35,000 symptomatic breakthrough cases being recorded each week—about ten percent of the country’s total. Presumably many more breakthrough cases were asymptomatic, which would drive the share up further.”

“This data is imperfect and incomplete and limited in various other ways, too, including because the country is testing so inadequately we can’t really see the present state of the pandemic all that clearly. But the piecemeal data does begin to tell you something, suggesting that breakthrough cases represent a bigger share of disease spread, particularly in the ongoing Delta wave, than has been widely acknowledged — perhaps, overall, somewhere in the range of 5-20 percent of current cases, rather than the 0-5 percent range.”

“The figures cited by Fauci and Murthy look reassuring — 99.2 percent of deaths were among the unvaccinated in June, according to Fauci, and 99.5 percent according to Murthy, speaking in July. But between June 25 and July 26, 6,973 Americans died in total from COVID-19, according to the CDC. Also according to the CDC, during that same period (June 25 to July 26), 364 died of breakthrough infections. That’s more than 5 percent — more than six times Fauci’s estimate and ten times Murthy’s.”

“Now we’re actually seeing lots of people getting symptomatic disease — getting fevers, getting sick. I just found out today that my brother has a breakthrough case — he’s fully vaccinated and young and healthy and he is very sick right now. And the data is suggesting more and more that that’s not rare at this point.”

“I think I said that my definition of a breakthrough case was something that was actually breaking through what the vaccines were intended to do and tested for. And since they weren’t intended to protect against transmission, or tested to measure their efficacy in stopping transmission, or, in that case, low virus load PCR positivity, if all the cases in question were asymptomatic and just PCR positive, I thought they didn’t really count as true breakthroughs. But now we’re starting to see that these cases are really causing illness in vaccinated people. And I think we’re probably underdiagnosing, or under-reporting a lot of it. I think breakthrough cases are probably very high, relative to what we’re detecting at the moment. I think it is much more serious than the CDC has been until very recently willing to suggest. And that’s because they wanted to stay on message.”

They don’t want to panic people.

“I think the idea that we’re going to vaccinate our way to true herd immunity — that idea has to be put to bed for a moment. Until we get a more stable sort of immunity and a more stable set of mutations, we should anticipate that anyone who’s been vaccinated can still transmit.”

“The writings on the wall. Senior citizens, as they age, don’t have the cells to retain immunological memory very well. Now, if you keep getting vaccinated over five, six years, maybe they can start to build up a much greater cushion of protection. But so far these senior citizens and elderly people in our country and around the world have only been vaccinated twice. Without boosters, I think we should expect that their immune memory will start to wane by the fall.”

“I project that it could be kind of a perfect storm. In some areas, we’ll see that the mitigation strategies that we put in place are going to fend off Delta a little bit, especially in the Northeast. But it’s going to fend it off just enough so that we hold it back until September, October.”

“And then we’d probably going to see a lot of breakthrough cases in nursing homes. And we’ll probably see these outbreaks in nursing homes turn into hospitalizations and deaths by the end of the year, absent boosters.”

“The next variants will be worse, because Delta is now the baseline. All the lineages will derive from Delta. And when you compound the two and you say, okay, you have immunological waning at the same time that you have a new variant, then all of a sudden, we’re in a much more dire situation with the elderly, where people who think that they’re protected, just won’t be.”

“It’s not going to be everyone. There’s going to be plenty of people who have a good “immune age” — despite being 85 years old, your immunological clock might still be doing just fine. But there’s going to be a lot of people, maybe as much as a third, who are really not protected anymore. And I think we have to come to grips with that and we’re going to have to figure out how to deal with it.”

“He said that people should not think: ‘Well, my freedom is being disturbed here.'”

From Twitter social media–“So @Schwarzenegger said “screw your freedom” to those of us who don’t wear masks. America has been very good to you Sir. Since you’ve obviously forgotten that, I say “screw your Communism”. — Pastor Greg Locke (@pastorlocke) August 12, 2021

“No. Screw your freedom. With freedom comes obligations and responsibilities,” Schwarzenegger said. “When you infect other people, that is when it gets serious.  You have the freedom to wear no mask, but you know something: You’re a schmuck for not wearing a mask because you’re supposed to protect your fellow members around you,” –Newsweek

“There is no mystery why conservatives find education dangerous. A 2015 Pew Research Center study quantified that the better educated one is, the more likely one is to hold liberal beliefs. But I’d argue, contrary to what conservatives seem to feel, that’s not because of bullying professors shouting left-wing dogma. Rather, it’s because once you learn how to think, you’re less susceptible to thin reasoning and easy answers. And increasingly, that’s all conservatisms got. 

That may not have been true — or at least, may have been less true — decades ago. But back then, the right had some intellectual underpinning, had yet to devolve into the twitching id of perpetual resentment now on daily display. I mean, is anyone overawed by the profundity of Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene? How about Louie Gohmert? Or even Ron DeSantis?

An opinion one can’t defend — using actual facts and recognizable reason — is an opinion not worth having. At some level, conservatives must know they fail that standard, so they work to undermine it instead, to make the world safe for ignorance.” =Leonard Pitts Jr., Tribune Content Agency

“Why should I have to wear a mask, just because other people are too stupid not to get vaccinated?” a friend recently asked me. “I got the vaccine. If I get the Delta variant, I’ll either have no symptoms or only very mild ones.”  When I told my vaccinated friend why I thought she should wear masks indoors at restaurants, gyms and theatres, she frowned. But as I continued to explain the reasons, she listened – and eventually tilted her head slightly back and forth, weighing my arguments. She then took a deep breath, slowly nodded and said, though in a quiet voice, “you’re right.”

“Yet, two underlying factors help fuel this resistance to recommendations and have strikingly received relatively little attention, and now need to be more fully addressed: cognitive biases in the human brain, and poor public understanding and literacy regarding science and math.”–Dr. Robert Klitzman.–The Hill

“Anthropologist Mary Douglas described how people tend to divide the world into the two separate domains: “risky” and “safe.” We categorize situations as either good or bad, and have difficulty conceptualizing ambiguities, uncertainties and notions of relative safety.”

“In assessing risks, humans instinctively engage in “fast” rather than more deliberative “slow” thinking. People tend to draw on biases and simple mental heuristics, or frameworks, of which they are unaware – and which often mislead us. Our brain’s default is to jump to conclusions that situations are either risky or not, rather than only partially or relatively so. ==Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman,

Understandably, millions of people want certainty, and assume that it is possible, but unfortunately, it is not, as long as the pandemic continues to unfold.

Even people who develop only “mild” symptoms – and thus don’t require hospitalization – can nonetheless suffer from weeks of mental and physical fatigue and/or become “long-haulers” with months of disabilities that impede employment. She may also infect other individuals who avoid vaccination not because of stupidity, but because they are infants, young children, pregnant women or immunocompromised.

Science and math literacy and education can help people grasp these complexities, and counteract innate human biases, but lag in the U.S. far below that of all other industrial countries. In students’ science proficiency, the U.S. now ranks 33rd in the world,

Most Americans do not know that humans evolved from earlier species, and lived at a different time than the dinosaurs.”

“Eight states, many of which have lagged the national average for vaccinations, have Covid-19 patients that account for at least 15% of their overall hospitalizations: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada and Texas, according to a CNN analysis of data from the US Department of Health and Human Services. Of all Covid-19 hospitalizations, these eight states’ combined totals make up approximately 51% of patients, though the states account for only around 24% of the nation’s population, according to Census data. 

The percentages of Covid-19 patients in ICUs are even worse, with Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi approaching half of ICU beds in use for such patients, HHS data from Thursday show. Louisiana and Mississippi each announced on Thursday their highest number of Covid-19 hospitalizations since the start of the pandemic. In Florida, Brevard County officials issued an urgent plea this week for residents to try to avoid using ambulance services for nonemergency calls or going to hospitals for Covid-19 tests. Hospital emergency rooms are inundated with patients with symptoms of Covid-19, according to Brevard County Emergency Director John Scott.”- Travis Caldwell, CNN

“A worsening coronavirus outbreak in Sydney prompted Australian regions to pull up the drawbridge on the city and surrounding state Friday by implementing unprecedented travel restrictions.  Western Australia became the latest state to impose tighter curbs on travel from New South Wales and its state capital, which posted a record 390 new infections Friday.

Western Australia premier Mark McGowan said from Tuesday would-be travelers will have to secure an exemption to enter his state, provide a negative Covid test, show proof of at least one vaccine dose, undergo 14 days home quarantine and install a tracking app on their phone.  If Sydney’s cases go above 500 a day, travelers will have to undergo a mandatory 14-day hotel quarantine and exemptions will be limited to a small number including the armed forces.

McGowan said the measures — which are more restrictive than many international borders — were “tough” but “entirely fair”. –AFP

“Statutory changes in large key electoral battleground states are dangerously politicizing the process of electoral administration, with Republican-controlled legislatures giving themselves the power to override electoral outcomes on unproven allegations should Democrats win more votes.” -New America

Reuters) – On a recent evening, Tyler Daye, an organizer with Common Cause North Carolina, hosted an online seminar for residents of the city of Wilson on an important but arcane topic: redistricting. With the help of publicly available mapping software known as Districtr, Daye clicked through maps of federal and state voting districts, showing how in each case Republican lawmakers in 2011 neatly cleaved the city in two, dividing the largely Black eastern half from the mostly white western half.  “When your communities are split, your voting power and representation is split as well,” he told attendees. “This attacks the very backbone, the very core of our democratic system, which is having the voters, the citizens, picking their legislators. Through this system, it’s the other way around.”

“This was absolutely one of the most dangerous moments in American history, the most dangerous moment ever caused by a president of the United States.  We’ve seen the movie before in some way, that President Trump would try to coerce federal agencies into doing things that are questionable, that benefit him personally … but this is the most extreme possibility, that he would try to use the mechanisms of government, particularly the Department of Justice, to perpetuate himself in office unlawfully and to basically launch a self-coup.” –George Conway Conservative Pundit

“Just say that the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the [Republican] Congressmen” President Donald Trump to the DOJ.

“The International Panel on Climate Change’s latest report says the warming of our planet is “irreversible for centuries to millennia.”  In a new international climate assessment published August 9, 2021, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that the water cycle has been intensifying and will continue to intensify as the planet warms.”-AP

The Water cycle, sounds safe enough, doesn’t it?  The water cycle is the engine which drives all weather.  Drought or Flood, Hurricane or Nor Easter, all aspects of water, both of having it and of not, will “continue to Intensify.”  The water cycle affects every living thing on earth, every crop planted and harvested are reliant upon the water cycle.  This is what the IPCC means by “Code Red”. 

The Planet is going to radically change over the next thirty years no matter what we do now.  We can however limit how many decades we suffer and continue the possibility of a human race in the future.

Or we can continue ignoring our peril and suffer the consequences of inaction.

As I worked on this in my hilltop retreat another 67,529 of my fellow humans died of Coronavirus, of those 4,535 were my fellow Americans, and of those 3 were fellow Mainers.

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