Day 831: Attrition tactics

Caption: Hannah Davis, a long covid reasearcher and suffering from longcovid herself, answered to a thread by epidemiologist Deepti Gurdasani: „The entire pandemic response has been shaped around accommodating the distress intolerance of priviliged people.“ (07.05.22)

Sorry folks but once in a while I need a rant in english.

It’s the third year of pandemic. We didn’t learn from our mistakes in the past but continue making old and new ones. With the second wave accelerating I’ve written quite a critique about the sum of mistakes leading to the late reaction of the government. Since then not much has changed:

„As long as so-called experts officially claim the virus is as harmless as the flu (which it is certainly not) and ignore the growing number of longcovid cases, people will not put much effort in following the basic set of rules. Younger people tend to see themselves as invincible as the rate of asymptomatic or mild disease is higher (which doesn’t rule out long covid, though). The elderly are either frightened or ignorant. Superstituous thinking is strong in Austria, maybe even more widespread than in the USA. Conspiracy myths fall on fruitful ground. No surprise in a country selling „Granderwasser“ and advertising „Lichtnahrung, not to mention big money made by „Schüsslersalze“ and „Bachblüten„, or homeopathic globules. In addition to that nearly a third of the Austrian population regularly votes for right-wing „anti-scientific“ politics. The media does their part to the damage, too, mainly dominated by boulevard newspapers and sparse scientific journalism.“

Now it’s the third year in a row where I have to follow the stupid way of life the brainless government forced me into. Before the pandemic I used to take my vacation in autumn or winter because of extended hiking tours. I dislike lots of days off in summer as I can’t stand the heat and besides unsettled weather conditions due to thunderstorms. With frequently resurging pandemic waves autumn and winter are out of the question for staying overnight in hotels or eating in a restaurant when it’s very cold or wet outside. If I behaved like the government wants me to, I had a high chance of getting infected during the summer wave, with several weeks with weakened performance or being unable to go on hiking tours. I need my hiking tours to put as much distance as possible between me and the big city and crowded places. I need being in nature and to get exercise for my physical and psychological health. In the benign case I would be fit again in autumn when the high rate of new infections will continue thanks to open schools and kindergardens without precautionary measures. In the ill-defined case I could have lingering long covid symptoms and long-term reduced performance.

I never thought I had to make these choices indefinitely. It’s all about smart risk management. Being smart from an enlightened perspective, though, in my case. I deal with a variety of aspects of the pandemic for about two years. I kept track all the time, collecting scientific literature, peer reviews and following the statements of real experts (and pseudoexperts as well to the disadvantage of my mood). It’s basically about being aware of COVID-19 disease risks, what the virus can do to the body, all the organs, the central nerve system and the brain. Covid19 is a systemic illness mainly damaging the blood vessels and causing microclots all over the body. The virus can linger within the body well after testing negative again, and immune dysregulation is also a frequent consequence of damaging t-cell function. Anecdotal evidence is given that people fell more frequent all after covid19 infection with common colds and other diseases. Why should I deliberately risk to be ill for weeks which would prevent me from enjoying my life?

Herd immunity doesn’t exist with covid19. This has been probably evident from the beginning as four other coronaviruses cause the common colds. Why are they common? Because they tend to reoccur every season, i.e., there is no growing sterile immunity against the virus which would ultimately lead to its extinction. The rate of reinfections has rapidly grown with the new serotype omicron consisting of several subvariants. The generation of another variant strongly depends of the general rate of new infections giving an otherwise slowly mutating coronavirus plenty of opportunities to mutate into a fitter variant, either being intrisically more infectuous or possessing more immun escape. ALPHA has been fitter than the original strain, DELTA has been fitter than ALPHA and also developed some immun escape circumventing the effectiveness of two vaccine doses. High rates with triple vaccination would have contained and maybe even regionally eliminated the spread of the DELTA but we overslept summer and early autumn and missed that chance. BA.1 revealed much more immun escape than DELTA bringing all vaccinated people back into the game. BA.1.1. outperformed BA.1 in terms of fitness and BA.2 turned out to be much fitter than BA.1 and BA.1.1.

Most western governments decided to let BA.1/BA.2 rip through the population, with several reasons put in front: They failed to explain the importance of the basic rules and largely ignored long covid. People became careless and tired of wearing masks or being careful about social events. They also failed to explain that vaccines were developed to prevent severe illness and death but being vaccinated didn’t protect from becoming infected and having „mild disease“. Mild wasn’t explained either. Mild can range from no symptoms to „never felt so ill in my life“ but without the need to go to hospital. Not necessarily very pleasant and probably concerning for people living alone like me. People being sceptical about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines weren’t better convinced with rapidly growing breakthrough infections. So vaccine campaignes slowed down and the perspective of mandatory vaccination didn’t seem to give the ruling parties a great advantage. Militant covid denier protests increased in numbers and violence and other people generally disapproving vaccination felt ripped of their fundamental rights. Besides, why mandatory vaccination when OMICRON was denoted mild? One of the key mistakes was to keep „flatten the curve“ as a strategy throughout the pandemic. The western governments focused on not overwhelming the health care system while isolated and asian governments focused on having no or low numbers of covid cases at all. Western governments and public health experts guiding the governments revealed a disturbing sense of responsibility for maintaining public health: They didn’t see something negative about filling hospitals with severely ill covid patients as long as „sufficient beds are available to treat noncovid patients.“ Asian countries for example knew about their limited capacities and also knew about longterm disease from earlier pandemics. No covid cases means lesser numbers of severe disease and longcovid. Lesser deaths, closer to the normality of 2019, though it’s a blurred view of normality when it has been normal to go sick to work or having sick children in school, or having very low vaccination rates for the flu. Going back to normal is rather a wish of priviliged people, isn’t it?

Fatally enough the western governments saw omicron as a ticket into an endemic phase of the pandemic, totally misunderstanding the term endemic. HIV, Polio or malaria are also endemic but nobody would think about giving up all efforts to control outbreaks or attempts to eliminate the disease. Endemic state could still mean significant reoccurring waves with damaging impact on societies, for their health care systems and economies. Some real experts anticipated the course of the pandemic as early as January 2021, some local experts warned that with sustained high infection rates, the „mild omicron“ variants could approach the DELTA variant in terms of pathogenicity. The current worldwide surging BA.4 and BA.5 wave is the result of the expressed concerns: The infectiousness of OMICRON combined with the severity of DELTA and even worse: Getting the infection before BA.4/BA.5 doesn’t give sufficient immunity to become infected again. Triple or even quadruple vaccination doesn’t prevent from getting infected. And it’s getting worse and worse: The governments pretends to prepare for autumn while the wave already surges in early summer. They tell the healthy part of the population that it would be sufficient to get an adapted booster in autumn. The problem is: The adapted boosters aren’t even approved now and lost their effectiveness against BA.4/BA.5. The BA.4/BA.5 wave may be long gone and gathered an even more severe mutation when the BA.1-adapted booster gets its release. Waiting is not an option and the governments still lie or don’t tell about all risks of covid infection, like longcovid and that long covid patients have to wait several months up to a year for a specialist appointment.

While politics and science remain a pain in the ass, which can be easily followed by reading my collection of politician and scientist quotes, the peer-group pressure is rising too. At the moment, I seem to be the only person in my family who refuses to plan a holiday trip. I don’t attend concerts or social events. Most of the time I stay alone, with day trips as the only exception with chosen tour partners, basically the same people for a year. I feel my energy getting sucked by the lack of recreation. It’s not getting better and here I didn’t even mention the energy crises, climate emergency and the terrible war not far east of Austria. It’s not only family pressure but also co-workers pressuring on behaving ’normal‘. I don’t feel ok when co-workers with common cold symptoms come to the open-plan office and then say, they had a negative covid19 test, and therefore it should be totally acceptable that I could infect you, too and ruin your day off plans. The discipline to wear a mask descended further. Lots of people tell me about their holiday plans, big concerts and social events but without mandatory testing, masks and further weakening protection from vaccination I feel quite „naked“ now.

Lots of people actually think the pandemic is over and frequently refer to our neighboring states. If they don’t consider covid19 as a notifiable condition, why should we? Why don’t we refer to states which still do for some reasons? Why do we always think of the most comfortable option? Why do people actually think the warm season would give us a break with ignoring precautionary measures and another wave in autumn will be predetermined? Why don’t they see they actually ARE the wave? Our selfish behaviour is responsible for each wave. At the same time, being selfish mocks all the scientists working so hard to find a cure against long covid, antiviral drugs and effective vaccines. They have an honorable goal – maintaining public health and individual health as well. They want to raise the quality of life (again). Why do we sabotage their efforts by showing so much selfishness?

End of rant.

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