Merry Fuckin’ Christmas!

Santa’s gunning you down.

Living with Coronavirus
(SARS-CoV-2)
Sunday December 19th, 2021
9:02 AM

Merry Fuckin’ Christmas!  Nothing like another wave of the newest strain of Covid to brighten one’s holiday, right?

I am sorry if my language use for this holiday is found offensive by any reader, but in truth I find the Christmas holiday season offensive.  It was not so offensive to me as a child in the 60’s, back when my childhood magical thinking process did not question authority and believed in Santa, God, and Country with equal fervor. 

As a child you believe what you are told by biological imperative.  Parents provide you food, warmth, shelter, and if your lucky, safety and a sense of well-being.  As a child your survival instincts all tell you to believe Mom and Dad, and by extension, Teacher, Preacher, Police, and Government.  As a child in the 60’s the veracity of each and every one of those authoritative sources was, for me, called into question.

All of them proved to be human in the end.  Human constructions, with human errors, with human machinations for personal power and wealth, and lots of human hubris. All had, as the Bible says, “feet of clay”.

I do not celebrate Xmas, although for years I kept a façade for my children, so they need not feel ostracized from a tradition I do not personally endorse.  Now that they are all grown themselves, I do not keep up the façade, because that is what it is for the majority of Americans, a façade.  Christmas itself has become the marketing gimmick of all time.

In the Christmas tales in the Bible, three wealthy “Wise men” (astrologers) bring precious gifts to a god they believe was just born.  In celebration of this humans give other humans they love gifts of all sorts, often in piles under the trees, either real and destroyed just for this day, or a plastic as the day itself has become.  A conglomeration of pre-christian traditions blended over time into what we call Christmas. Most simply annexed by the Catholic church as they made Europe Christian, it is easier to let the locals keep some traditions, just incorporated into the Christian faith tradition.

Christmas is about a loving feeling at its core; a feeling of well-being and wanting the very best for the people you love; and of course, expressing that through the expenditure of funds via gift buying.  IE “Prove how much you love her with a diamond!” A concept I find repugnant myself.  The fact that most of society is either willfully blind to it, or simply blind to it is not relevant to me.  For me it has spoiled that holiday since the 70’s.

“Once in Royal David’s City
Stood a lonely cattle shed
Where a mother held her baby
You’d do well to remember the things he later said

When you’re stuffing yourselves at the Christmas parties
You’ll just laugh when I tell you to take a running jump
You’re missing the point I’m sure does not need making
That Christmas spirit is not what you drink

So how can you laugh when your own mother’s hungry
And how can you smile when the reasons for smiling are wrong?
And if I just messed up your thoughtless pleasures
Remember, if you wish, this is just a Christmas song”—Jethro Tull

Wealth expended by one person to gift another shows that person is caring of others, whether they are actually caring day to day or not.  Wealth received by others as gifts is proof to them that someone in this world loves and cares about them.  So, the modern Christmas paradigm has become what Dr, Suess warned of in his children’s epic, “The Grinch who stole Christmas”. 

If you recall the Grinch hates Christmas, but in the end sees the value in the community, the shared experience of love and of celebration of life itself.

“He puzzled and puzzled till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before.
Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store.
Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more!”

And the Who’s, who had forgotten that meaning and painted it over with jingtinglers and  floofloovers.  Whose own lives pre-Christmas, resemble the crunch many Americans feel as Christmas draws near, as they shop and decorate on a deadline.  Those self-same Who’s nonetheless remember under all that commercialism, under the whohoopers and tartookas, existed a pure holiday of a loving spirit, which is called forth when they sing around the tree in the end, after all the ribbons and bows were removed.

A pure holiday forgotten by the masses (those Who’s down in Whoville), who had papered over it with glimmer and glaze (trumtookas and whowonkas) and only brought into clarity by the Grinch himself, who had never seen that underlying value because of the wrappings and ribbons.  That was all he saw, so he stole it away (commercialism), and in doing so revealed to himself and the Whos the true spirit of Christmas.

I find it ironic as hell and indicative of his skill as a writer that that Dr. Suess’s “The Grinch who stole Christmas” has become a Christmas classic.  The spirit of Christmas (love) was buried under all the trimmings (Commercial exploitation of the holiday), so deeply and for so long, that the Grinch had no idea it (Love) was even there; “Why for 53 years I’ve put up with it now!”. Yet today the Grinch himself is almost as common a sight as Santa in this season; packaged and marketed alongside the candy canes. Just another bit of tinsel for sale.

People still feel this holiday, and an even greater desire for that “perfect Christmas” which exists only in their minds.  All the efforts, at decorating, with music and foods, are all efforts by humans to create that perfect, mythical Christmas for themselves and the ones they love.

So, when the world said, “Have a Pandemic”, and those plans get shelved, many people were disturbed and distressed by this.  A large chunk of their life has been, and is being consumed by “Christmas”, and when the Pandemic hit that created a vacuum in their lives.  For some people it is the first time they ever curbed their Christmas celebration.  Suddenly instead of the big annual celebration(s), it was stay at home, and don’t visit the grandparents, parents, or even friends. Instead of a celebration of all things good, it was a black hole in their hearts.

Now, one year later, many of those people, now vaccinated, will try to make up for last year by re-birthing their Christmas celebration in grad le-festive style, and here comes Omicron.  That must feel like the cartoon at top, where “Santa Claus is gunning you down”, Merry fuckin Christmas!

Omicron is more infectious by double than Delta, which was double the original; which was so contagious it caused the pandemic.  It may prove to be less deadly than Delta in the end, but because it is so very contagious that may not matter too much.  Millions of fully vaccinated people will travel this week for Christmas celebrations, others for a smattering of other holidays, also in this season.  Since even fully vaccinated people can get, or carry and transmit unawares, the Omicron strain. The travel and celebrations will fuel inevitably fuel the wave we already see incoming.

So, in this Christmas season I expect millions of well meaning, loving human beings, to travel to see loved ones for Christmas celebrations, and end up inadvertently helping to spread Omicron a wee bit faster than its already geometric rise.  If Omicron spreads too fast and is less deadly, we won’t know because it will still fill up all the ICUs like 2020.  If it is 1% mortal instead of 2-3% as we estimate Delta, it is still 1% of 330 million, that is still another 3 million sick, hospitalized, or dead.

There remains a large pool of unvaccinated people, and Omicron will infect and sicken them.  Even now hospital covid wards remain stuffed with unvaccinated people.  Vaccine response is 10 days after you get your dose, so it is very late, but better than never, to get that vaccine.

Global Infected      269,840,646                   274,345,221                       
Increase             4,504,575
7 day average        643,510 infections diagnosed daily –Up

Global Dead          5,304,001                                          5,352,453
Increase             48,452
7 day average        6,921 deaths daily  –Down

USA Infected         49,884,588                                       50,777,087
Increase             892,499
7 day average        127,499 infections diagnosed daily –Up

USA C-19 deaths      797,179                                         806,302
Increase             9,123
7 day average        1,303 deaths daily –Up

Maine Infected       129,997                                           136,401                                                                
Increase             6,404
7day average         914 infections diagnosed daily –Down

Maine deaths         1,367                                                1,441
Increase             74
7 day average        10.5714 deaths daily  –Up by more than double

USA Today
“Doctors in Minnesota took the unusual step of pleading in a full-page newspaper ad for people to get vaccinated against Covid-19 and take other precautions to curb the pandemic. 

“We’re heartbroken. We’re overwhelmed,” the top of the Sunday ad in the Minneapolis Star Tribune said in large type.  “Our emergency departments are overfilled, and we have patients in every bed in our hospitals,” the ad said. “This pandemic has strained our operations and demoralized many people on our teams.”

The ad was signed by nine executives of health care systems. Seven doctors, including the president and CEO of the Mayo Clinic, Gianricco Farrugia, and Marc Gorelick, president and CEO of Children’s Minnesota, signed it.

According to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, the number of hospitalizations in Minnesota for the past 30 days is 14.5% higher than the previous 30-day period. The number of Covid-19 deaths has increased by 36.4%.

CNN
“Top federal health officials warned in a briefing Tuesday morning that the omicron variant is rapidly spreading in the United States and could peak in a massive wave of infections as soon as January, according to new modeling from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The prevalence of omicron jumped sevenfold in a single week, CDC modeling shows, and at such a pace, the highly mutated variant of the coronavirus could ratchet up pressure on a health system already strained in many places as the delta variant continues its own late-autumn surge.

The briefing detailed two scenarios for how the omicron variant, first identified in South Africa three weeks ago, may spread through this country. The worst case scenario has spooked top health officials, who fear a fresh wave, layered on top of delta and influenza cases in what one described as “a triple whammy,” could overwhelm health systems and devastate communities, particularly those with low vaccination rates.

“I’m a lot more alarmed. I’m worried,” said Marcus Plescia, chief medical officer for the Association of State and Territorial Health officials, who participated in the call. The CDC, normally cautious in its messaging, told the public health officials that “we got to get people ready for this,” he said.

He noted that the omicron surge, if it materializes as forecast, would be taking place as delta continues its onslaught and during the time of year when influenza cases often peak.”

NEW YORK (Reuters) – “All three U.S.-authorized COVID-19 vaccines appear to be significantly less protective against the newly-detected Omicron variant of the coronavirus in laboratory testing, but a booster dose likely restores most of the protection, according to a study released on Tuesday.

The study from researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), Harvard and MIT that has not yet been peer reviewed tested blood from people who received the Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines against a pseudovirus engineered to resemble the Omicron variant.

The researchers found “low to absent” antibody neutralization of the variant from the regular regimens of all three vaccines – two shots of the Moderna or Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines or one of J&J’s single-dose vaccine.

But the blood from recent recipients of an additional booster dose exhibited potent neutralization of the variant, the study found.

The scientists also suggested that Omicron is more infectious than previous variants of concern, including about twice as transmissible as the currently dominant Delta variant, which may soon be overtaken by Omicron.

The results are in line with other studies recently published. Researchers at the University of Oxford said on Monday that they found the two-dose Pfizer and AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine regimens do not induce enough neutralizing antibodies against the new variant.

BioNTech and Pfizer said last week that a three-shot course of their COVID-19 vaccine was able to neutralize the new Omicron variant in a laboratory test, but two doses resulted in significantly lower neutralizing antibodies.

Moderna and J&J have yet to release any of their own data about how the vaccines perform against the new variant. J&J declined to comment on the new study and Moderna did not respond to request for comment.”

CNN
“The Omicron coronavirus variant is spreading at a rate not seen with previous variants, World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has warned, adding that the tendency to dismiss it as mild is concerning. Speaking during a news conference on Tuesday, Tedros said the variant has been detected in 77 countries. “The reality is that Omicron is probably in most countries, even if it hasn’t been detected yet,” he added.

Officials in Britain have warned the country is facing a “tidal wave” of infections from Omicron. The strain has become dominant in London, outcompeting the previous Delta variant.  On Monday, the UK reported its first death from the variant, and on Wednesday it reported 78,610 new cases of the coronavirus, the highest number of daily cases since the pandemic began.

The previous record of daily new infections was 68,053 on January 8.

Lauren Barry—Audacity
“As has been the case throughout the pandemic, the United States is running behind Europe in seeing the impact of a new variant.  Omicron went from accounting for 0.4% of circulating virus in the US in the week to December 4 to 2.9% the following week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  Centers of Disease Control and Prevention data shows that cases of Omicron variant COVID-19 in the U.S. jumped by more than 2 percent last week, which begs the question: why is it so transmissible?

Researchers from the University of Hong Kong may have found a clue related to how the variant infects bronchial tissue.  In a study published Wednesday, they found that the omicron variant multiplies about 70 times faster inside human respiratory tract tissue than the delta variant. As of this week, the delta variant – which is more transmissible than the SARS-CoV-2 virus that first caused the global pandemic – is the most common variant of COVID-19 in the country, according to the CDC.

News on the #OmicronVariant: New data out of the CDC today demonstrates that our genomic sequencing estimates Omicron at about 3% across the nation, & at about 13% in NY & NJ. While it is rapidly increasing, we have the tools needed to fight #COVID19. Get vaccinated, get boosted. https://t.co/RARYRNVeds— Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH (@CDCDirector) December 14, 2021

Additionally, the University of Hong Kong report found that the omicron variant reached higher levels in respiratory tissue compared to delta 48 hours after infection.

Tissue from human bronchi, tubes that carry air from your windpipe to your lungs, was used to conduct the study. Researchers infected the tissue with live, replicating particles of delta, omicron and a variant of SARS-CoV-2 that was circulating in 2020 to see how fast each variant spread.

They also experimented on lung tissue separately from the bronchi and found omicron was less efficient at infecting those cells than delta and the originally discovered virus.

While the University of Hong Kong research has not yet been peer reviewed, it falls in line with another study published Tuesday.

Immunologist Wilfredo Garcia-Beltran, a fellow at the Ragon Institute of Massachusetts General Hospital, and his colleagues conducted the study using pseudoviruses, particles related to viruses used for research. They found that omicron’s spike protein, the region that binds to human cells and triggers infection, allowed it to enter cells two times easier than delta and four times easier than the original COVID-19 virus.”

Elizabeth Weise, USA TODAY
“A study by Oregon researchers finds that people fully vaccinated against COVID-19 who have a breakthrough infection end up with what the authors call “super immunity.”

They caution the vaccinated should not seek COVID-19 infection, but the “hybrid immunity” offers some solace for those who catch one despite having been vaccinated.

“The bottom line of the study is that vaccine provides you with foundational immunity for whatever comes next,” said Fikadu Tafesse, a professor of molecular microbiology and immunology in the Oregon Health & Science University School of Medicine in Portland, Oregon.

The study matched 26 vaccinated Oregon Health & Science University staff people who had breakthrough infections with a similar group who were vaccinated but hadn’t had COVID-19.  The people who were vaccinated and then got COVID-19 showed a substantial increase in antibody levels, said Tafesse. “The increases were substantial, up to a 1,000% increase and sometimes up to 2,000%, so it’s really high immunity,” he said. “It’s almost ‘super immunity.'”

Multiple other studies have shown that infection with COVID-19 followed by one dose of the vaccine is very protective against re-infection. “This is one of the first that shows a breakthrough infection following vaccination generates stronger immunity than prior infection or vaccination alone,” said Dr. Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease expert at the University of California, San Francisco.

While possibly equally protective, the reverse order is not recommended. Getting COVID-19 before being vaccinated is dangerous because “we cannot predict who will get very ill with COVID,” Gandhi said.”

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — “Public health officials in Maine said Friday the state is the latest to detect the omicron variant of COVID-19 within its borders.

The Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor conducted genomic sequencing to confirm the variant in five samples from Penobscot County, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday. The variant has been detected in more than 40 states.

Democratic Gov. Janet Mills called the news “unwelcome but not unexpected” and encouraged residents to take precautions such as mask wearing and vaccination.

“While we are still learning about this new variant, the take-away for Maine people should be this: get vaccinated now and wear a mask when you’re indoors in public,” Mills said.

Maine is in the midst of a surge of COVID-19 cases. The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Maine has risen over the past two weeks from 423 on Dec. 1 to 1,048 on Dec. 15. The Associated Press is using data collected by Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering to measure outbreak caseloads and deaths across the United States.”

CNBC
“Covid will become an endemic disease as early as 2024, Pfizer executives said Friday, meaning the virus will transition from a global emergency to a constant presence causing regional outbreaks across the world — much like the flu.  “We believe Covid will transition to an endemic state, potentially by 2024,” Nanette Cocero, global president of Pfizer Vaccines, said during an investor call Friday.

Covid-19 would reach the endemic level when populations have enough immunity from vaccines or from prior infections to keep transmissions, hospitalizations and deaths under control even as the virus circulates.

“When and how exactly this happens will depend on the evolution of the disease, how effectively society deploys vaccines and treatments, and equitable distribution to places where vaccination rates are low,” Pfizer chief scientific officer Mikael Dolsten said. “The emergence of new variants could also impact how the pandemic continues to play out.”

The timing of Covid’s transition to an endemic state could vary from place to place, according to Dolsten.”

CNN
“Antarctica’s Thwaites Glacier, commonly referred to as the “doomsday glacier,” is so massive that it has the power to raise sea levels by several feet if it melts. Now, scientists are warning that its only remaining ice shelf — a brace that helps prevent the glacier’s total collapse — may only last a few more years. The glacier is about 74,000-square-miles — roughly the size of Florida — and is one of the largest and fastest-melting glaciers in Antarctica, researchers told reporters at a press conference on Monday. The Thwaites Eastern Ice Shelf, the area of concern, makes up one-third of the glacier.

That shelf, researcher Erin Pettit told reporters, is currently “acting like a dam” for the rest of the glacier. But warm water has seeped under the glacier, causing it to melt, and the ice shelf is appearing to “lose its grip” on an underwater seamount that keeps it stable.  Ted Scambos, of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, explained that the warm water underneath the glacier is essentially “eating away at the ice shelf.”

Researchers said the shelf’s ice is “rapidly” shattering. The evidence indicates that the ice shelf’s “final collapse” could occur within as little as 5 years.

Such a collapse would likely have a significant impact on the ocean. Today, the ice shelf contributes up to 4% of global sea level rise, but when it collapses, its contribution to sea level rise could increase by as much as 25%, researchers said. If the whole glacier collapsed, it could raise sea levels by more than two feet, researchers said.”

CNN
Cheney (R-Wyo.) said, “Mr. Meadows’s testimony will bear on another key question before this committee: Did Donald Trump, through action or inaction, corruptly seek to obstruct or impede Congress’s official proceeding to count electoral votes?”

A casual observer might have missed it, but what Cheney was doing here was pointing to a specific criminal statute — a felony, 18 U.S. Code § 1512 — that she suggests President Donald Trump might have violated. And both its inclusion in her comments and the timing of it shouldn’t be lost on anyone. This was a Republican member of the committee floating a specific potential Trump crime that the committee apparently wants to drill down on; it also came shortly after a federal judge upheld the use of the statute in a key Jan. 6 case.

Cheney’s comment matches the language of the statute. It states, “Whoever corruptly … obstructs, influences, or impedes any official proceeding, or attempts to do so, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both.” That law defines an “official proceeding” as including “a proceeding before the Congress.”

It also comes after notable developments on that particular statute: A federal judge ruled last week that the law could be used to charge a Jan. 6 case — involving Capitol rioters, at least. The ruling was a win for the Justice Department, which has used the statute in more than 200 Jan. 6 cases, although defendants have been fighting it.

The judge, Dabney L. Friedrich, ruled that Congress’s counting of electoral votes — the business it was engaged in when Trump supporters overran the Capitol — qualifies as an “official proceeding” under the statute.

“The Joint Session thus has the trappings of a formal hearing before an official body,” Friedrich said. “There is a presiding officer, a process by which objections can be heard, debated, and ruled upon, and a decision — the certification of the results — that must be reached before the session can be adjourned. … Accordingly, the congressional certification at issue here is a ‘proceeding before the Congress.’ ”

While I worked on this week another 48,452 of my fellow humans succumbed to C-19, of those 9,123 were my fellow Americans and 74 were my fellow Mainers.

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