The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Category: Covid–19 Page 1 of 21

Apparently Covid Didn’t Get The Notice That’s It’s Cancelled

I sometimes think the defining characteristic of our age is reality denial:

I suppose 1.37% may not seem high, but the point is that Covid just keeps rolling along. Each time you get it, odds are that it’s doing some damage to your organs, including your brain. Most of that is sub-perceptual, it doesn’t qualify as “Long Covid”, but it’s there. Then you get it again, and again, and again.

Meanwhile, in Britain:

I’m sure Labour’s program to get the back to work will do nothing but make people miserable. That chart doesn’t suggest “malingering.”

Spain’s numbers are particularly interesting

Now what’s visible here is that the numbers keep increasing. The long Covid continues to circulate, the higher the disability numbers. This is exactly what I’ve been predicting for years: as time goes by, people get Covid again and again. Eventually that causes enough damage to cause long term illness or disability.

I shudder to think what it will mean for kids, since those in school get Covid the most often. Since they’re young they have more resistance, but I’m willing to bet (and will not be wrong) that this will show up in very high illness and early death numbers as they age.

The solution to all this is fairly simple: we need to clean our air up: filtration, UV and so on. This isn’t that expensive, although it has to be done in all buildings. Numbers drop, once they’re fairly low, stop all non-essential travel for three months or so and track and trace. Do this is a group of countries and permanently ban travel from any country that hasn’t done it, until they do.

Yes, there is a cost to this, but it’s a lot less than the cost of having more and more disabled and sick people.

Covid is still a big deal, the only thing that’s a bigger deal (unless we have a world war) is climate change/ecological collapse. And we are failing to deal with an issue which is relatively simple because we won’t take a small percentage of our manufacturing and building capacity and refit all buildings to clean the air, then make such air cleaning permanent going forward. This is exactly what we did with water, in the past, to stop disease spread, but our current society is sclerotic and stupid.

This is true everywhere. China’s ZeroCovid policy was the right thing done STUPID. If any country had the capacity to clean air it was China, but they just stuck to shut-downs till the public lost patience.

It’s dismaying to live in societies where we know what’s wrong, we know how to fix what’s wrong and we simply refuse to do what is necessary.


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Why Every Society Failed The Covid Test

I’m going to keep this one brief.

At the start, Covid could have been stopped with travel bans, track and trace, mandatory isolation and lockdowns.

The problem with how everyone did lockdowns is that they did them too late. Instead of starting lockdowns when hardly anyone had Covid BUT R was over 0 (one case of Covid was spreading to more than one person) they would wait until the numbers were high. As a result lockdowns were long, but never actually crushed Covid and over time support for lockdowns was lost.

But the real problem is that controlling Covid spread required travel bans. Western Australia, which controlled Covid almost completely for over a year, did so by shutting down all non-essential travel. If this had been done worldwide, Covid could have been ended early.

I remember that the first lockdown where I live in Canada happened two weeks after I expected it. I kept looking at the numbers and wondering why weren’t in lockdown already. The only people wearing masks were asian-Canadians. All through the pandemic lockdowns happened three to four weeks after they should have, based on the numbers.

Vaccines were oversold (I’m not getting into the rest of the vaccine debate), economic support of businesses and often individuals in countries was insufficient and organizations like WHO and the CDC bungled their advice over and over again, starting with first claiming people shouldn’t wear masks and then later saying that Covid wasn’t airborne, but was spread by droplets.

The large country which handled Covid best may have been China, with their zero Covid policy. (Which I praised at the time), but they did the right thing stupid: zero-Covid could never continue indefinitely and even when it was done much of it was not done intelligently, like not moving to n95 masks. Most importantly, though, there had to be a transition plan.

China is the premier world industrial power. Covid is airborne. The trifecta of proper ventilation, cleaning air with HEPA filters, and UV light, along with air quality monitors, can be used, should be used and should have been used to make buildings safe again. (In China’s case they also needed to improve their plumbing. Most Chinese buildings don’t have the U curve (P-Trap) which traps smells and gasses.)

So the correct plan is to put air quality monitors everywhere, and to refit all buildings with proper ventilation: air filtration and UV light. Entirely do-able, if a big project. When you put all this in, and your building is inspected, your workers can come back to work even during outbreaks.

China could have done this easiest of all the world’s countries and didn’t.

Now, this is a collective action problem. It requires a correct diagnosis of a problem, a correct prescription of the cure, then taking unified social action. In other words, Covid is:

  1. Airborne
  2. Therefore we need to clean the air
  3. So let’s mass produce the necessary filters, ventilation, sensors and UV and then install them.

Every society failed this.

Now if we can’t do that, what are the odds of us tackling climate change or environmental collapse? Those problems require us to reduce our consumption significantly (possible to do without large hits to standards of living, but that’s another article), which will require us to revamp our economies away from capitalist consumption and figure out how to keep everything running without an economy of planned obsolesence and everyone running on hampster wheels working, buying, selling and dying.

The transition is a hard problem to manage, while Covid was a simple problem with very few moving parts. We couldn’t even manage Covid.

Covid was a test. We failed. We can pass any time we want, its still a solvable problem. Until we do pass the test, there is zero reason to believe we can pass any harder tests.

Some countries did better than others, but none passed the test. When you’re running from a fire it doesn’t matter if you run faster than everyone else if you don’t out-run the fire.

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The Second Most Important Story In The World

If you pull way back and take the historical perspective, a lot of stories, aren’t.

I stand second to few in my abhorrence of the Israeli project to ethnic cleanse and genocide Palestine, but it’s been ongoing for a long time and involves about five million Palestinians plus various supporters of genocide and people trying to stop genocide. It’s moving towards the end-game, as Israel loses deterrence because of its military’s sheer incompetence and changing military technology, but it’s playing out more or less as expected: the tiny colonial enclave surrounded by hostile natives is in decline as its super power sponsor is in decline.

The Ukraine war is important because it’s another indicator of the end of the American century and Western hegemony and the first major war which shows how new battlefield tech works in practice. But, pull back a bit and well, it’s just a sign of something inevitable, which is the end of Western hegemony. And that was signed when the US decided to send its industry to China: the actual decision was made back in the 90s.

US internal political shenanigans, like Texas illegally defying the Federal government over immigration and attempts to keep Trump off the ballot and so on are important: but they’re just the logical consequence of American economic decline and of neo-liberal ideology. Don’t decide to become a plutocratic oligarchy by electing Reagan, and none of this happens. Again, the decision was made a long time ago, but also, whatever, the US was never going to be number 1 forever.

The rise of China is also a sort of semi-story. The place that was the technological and economic leader for most of the last 2,000 years is regaining is prominence after a period of decline caused by an unevenly spread technological renaissance. This isn’t a surprise, it’s almost an inevitability. though when and how it happens matters to those of us around when it does.

But Covid is a real story. It’s probably a black plague level story. A virus that badly damages immune systems and which leaves many people crippled but alive. That matters, because it’s changing the cycles. Empires rise and fall, tech breakthroughs happen, are clustered and give an advantage then disperse, and military tech changes in ways which change war, often for centuries, but major major plagues, well, they’re hardly unknown, but it’s been a while and Covid is a big one.

It’s not the deaths that matter so much. It’s the disabling. This lovely chart runs to the middle of 2023.

As for Covid, well, it’s a pandemic. That means it runs in waves.

Ain’t that something? Turns out declaring the pandemic over and the pandemic being over are two different things.

Increasing levels of people not being able to work and needing to be supported is a big, big deal, for reasons I assume are obvious.

We’ll talk more about this soon, real soon, because Covid was a test and we failed as a species, no one handled it properly even though doing so would have been fairly simple. And why we couldn’t handle Covid is why we can’t handle anything else, including the most important “story” or problem in the world.

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Respiratory Infection Hospital Admission 6X Standard Deviations Up

In Ontario, Canada:

Meanwhile, in China there’s a huge respiratory disease outbreak that the Chinese government refuses to give details on. Could be something new, but it equally it just could be standard respiratory disease: a LOT of standard respiratory disease.

I hate to keep hammering this issue, but it’s important. There is NO immunity debt, what there is is immune system damage from Covid infections. Every Covid infection has a chance to degrade your immune system and to damage basically every organ, including your brain.

Every additional Covid infection can and often does do more damage. This damage is often imperceptible (until it isn’t): your body is hurt, but you can’t feel it—yet. When you do, well, that’s Long Covid.

Meanwhile you get sick more often. We’ve also seen huge increases in children with heart and respiratory ailments, since schools are a primary vector for infection.

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When China stopped their Zero Covid policy, I said a lot of people would die and suffer. We don’t know the immediate death toll because China isn’t talking, but estimates put it between 1.4 and 2 million people in the first two months. But, as I wrote at the time, it was the long term consequences which would really matter.

They show up easier in China because China has fewer hospital beds per capita and it’s harder to conceal when hospitals become swamped.

We could still wipe out Covid if we really wanted to, though it would be a big and worldwide effort, but so far we’re mostly just pretending it’s over “because we say it’s over.”

Alas “because I say so” doesn’t work with respect to nature and the knock-on effects of the pandemic continue, and they are very very nasty.

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Ten Simple Facts About Covid (With Bonus Fact!)

One of the most irritating things about writing this blog is making statements that are obviously correct which people, especially those with power and large platforms dispute, then later being proven correct.

Covid has been a masterclass:

First, Covid is not over. It will not be over till we either get very lucky and it mutates massively to be less dangerous, or we do what is necessary to end it. Remember that Covid is a pandemic. It moves in waves.

Second, Covid damages immunity.

Third, Covid damages a wide variety of organs, including the heart, lungs, circulatory system and your brain. This damage can be non-symptomatic, or it can be bad enough to be Long Covid.

Fourth, every time you get Covid, it has a chance of doing more damage.

Fifth, therefore getting Covid multiple times builds up damage to your body, including your immune symptom. This is why we are seeing significant increases in the number of people getting heart attacks and cancer, for example. (It’s also probably behind the significant increase in auto accidents.)

Sixth, other than masks the best way to protect against Covid is to constantly purify the air.

Seventh, Covid infections are and were driven by children at school. Not only do they give it each other, they take it back to their families.

Eight: Long Covid is more important than deaths, as it hits working age people.

Nine: Long Covid and, to a lesser extent deaths are are a huge contributor to the labor force tightness, and as such are helping with efforts to increase wages.

Tenth: that notwithstanding, so far Covid has mostly been used as a profit opportunity and excuse to raise prices, and as such has seen a massive increase in prices. Those workers who have the ability to raise their wages can keep up or maybe even get ahead, those who don’t are screwed.

Bonus: as I said a couple years ago, when children aren’t in school there are less suicides, because school (especially high school) is ass. Certainly there are children who need school to escape from abusive parents (I was one of them), but while large in number, they are a minority.

How Over Is Covid?

The official Covid mortality numbers are down, and pretty significantly, in most countries. But we also aren’t testing as much and  most countries aren’t collating and releasing figures as much either.

For now, however, we have excess mortality numbers.  So, a guy named Diego Bassani produced these two excess mortality charts for Canada.

First, age 15-64.

 

Second, 0-14.

Compare the 2020 line for adults and children, then the 2021. In 2020 we protected kids, in 2021 we gave up and threw them to the wolves. I said at the time that the idea that kids were going to be just fine if we sent them back to school wholesale without ventilating and filtering schools was nonsense, and it was.

Anyway, it sure doesn’t look like Covid is over, does it?

And really, why would we think it would be over since we didn’t do anything to end it except say it was over and stop most of what was done to slow it down, from masking and isolation to widespread vaccination?

I rather suspect most governments are gaslighting their populations. Lying. And step by step they will lie more by changing the excess death baseline (the UK is already on this) and so on.

“No, this is how it’s always been.”

Of course, not all deaths are directly Covid, but the excess are mostly because of Covid. If you get cancer and the hospitals are slammed and you don’t get care for months then die, it won’t show as “Covid”, but it’s because of Covid, or rather our response. In Canada I keep seeing stories about overworked hospitals and how emergency departments are having to shut down for the weekend or whatever. That basically never happened pre-Covid.

Covid’s here. It’s still killing and Long Covid is still stalking the land. And we’re just pretending, like some “New Emperor’s Clothes” that it isn’t

I don’t see how adding a semi-permanent pandemic and mass disabling to climate change and environmental collapse is anything but bad and complete malpractice by our ruling class, even given that they are the enemies of all humanity except themselves, since it’s going to hit them too.


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Ending Zero-Covid Coming Home To Roost For China

So, as expected:

XBB is expected to result in 40 million infections per week by the end of May before peaking at 65 million a month later. This comes nearly six months after Beijing dismantled its Covid Zero curbs, allowing the virus to spread rapidly among the country’s 1.4 billion residents…

…Zhong’s estimate suggests that this latest wave of infections will be more muted compared to the previous wave that hit China late last year and into January. At that time, a different omicron sublineage likely infected 37 million people every day, overwhelming hospitals and crematoriums and causing residents to scramble for limited supplies of fever medicine.

As in the West, almost everyone in China will get Covid. Many will get it multiple times, indeed, if Covid continues for years, this is guaranteed. As I’ve long said, the primary social issue isn’t deaths (China’s government is probably more than OK with old people dying given its onrushing demographic issues), but Long Covid and asymptomatic damage to organs and to the immune system.

In a couple years China will be like the US and Britain, with about 2% of its population disabled by Covid: in China that’s twenty-eight million people, more than the population of many countries. Two years after that, well, even assuming it’s less than linear due to deaths and (hopefully) improved treatment, thirty-five to forty million isn’t unreasonable.

After ten years?

Zero-Covid was the right policy done stupid, and it shouldn’t have been ended until China had properly changed ventilation and filtering as well as installed proper sink traps (most Chinese homes do not have traps – those bends in the pipes, which block smells). Given China was having economic issues, the extra work would have been useful for the economy anyway.

If Covid doesn’t spontaneously mutate to do less long term damage it’s not clear to me how our societies survive this in addition to climate change. It’s not just that people can’t work or are stupider (there’s a ton of brain damage) or less healthy even if they can work, it’s that medical and disability systems will need a lot more people and resources and if the government doesn’t give them, it doesn’t make the problem go away, it shoves it onto the population.

The sheer level of incompetence and inability to plan ahead in our societies is insane. I had hoped that China might prove an exception. Alas.


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As Long Covid Increases Expect Government Policy To Rush Death

So, to reiterate how this works, each Covid infection has a good chance of doing damage to your body, especially to your brain, cardiovascular system and to your immune system, which does not become stronger, but rather disregulated and weakened against future infections, not just of Covid but of other diseases.

This damage may not be symptomatic, in which case you don’t have “Long Covid”, but it’s real. Each time you get re-infected there is a chance of more damage, and I’m almost entirely certain, an increased risk of Long Covid.

Long Covid itself can be mild, or it can be crippling. Millions of people now can’t work as a result and others are suffering and less able to work or to enjoy their lives.

We’ve had Covid as a pandemic now for about three years, and there is no end in sight. And yes, it’s still a pandemic even if the WHO has said “the emergency is over” and we’re all pretending it’s no big deal. In the US about six hundred people a day are still dying and that’s both certainly an under-count and doesn’t include deaths from things like heart attacks which are caused by Covid infections. Nor does it include people dying because hospitals are clogged up and it takes longer to get necessary care or diagnoses. (I’d say if one counted deaths where the death wouldn’t have happened without Covid its north of a thousand a day.)

Which leads to the social and political problem. We aren’t increasing health care staffing and funding to deal with a pandemic that never ends and with all the damaged people. We aren’t increasing help for people with disabilities or who can’t work or can work less. We are pretending that “the emergency is over” means we can go back to the world of 2019.

But we’ve decided to live with an ever-increasing number of disabled people, with a pandemic that never ends, and with an ever-increasing number of people with long term health problems caused by Covid, even if those people aren’t disabled. (Dead people are the least of the problem, from a social and political perspective, though not from a human one.)

Governments don’t want to pay for human welfare. They don’t want to pay to help the people the pandemic is hurting but not killing. They don’t want to increase the number of nurses and doctors and home care assistants and long term care facilities for disabled people who don’t live at home.

But more than that, I’m entirely certain that most governments will quietly put in places policies which make people harmed, but not killed by Covid, die faster, to get them off the books and reduce the strain and such increased costs as they can’t avoid.

Dead people are easy to deal with. People who are long term sick, not so much.

And even if you aren’t one of the people who are fucked up by Long Covid or sub-perceptual damage, this will effect you, because hospitals and other health care services remain slammed. You will get care later and worse care and delays stand a damn good chance of turning a problem which could have been handled easily into something much worse.

As with everything else in our society, you can pretend a problem isn’t real, or admit it is real and just do nothing, but the problem doesn’t go away because you ignore it. And if you ignore it long enough it can turn into complete catastrophe, as is true with climate change and ecological collapse, or as is true with all the problems caused by neoliberal policies (including, for Americans, the loss of their dominant world position and standard of living, something on the horizon if not fully here yet.)

As usual, this problem is exacerbated by the fact that the elites know that they personally will still get the very best care. But as with everything else, they won’t avoid the long term effects, because the Covid pandemic and thus increased levels of Long Covid and non-symptomatic but real damage will continue to accumulate in the population. Given how reinforcing cycles work, it is not hyperbole or exaggeration for effect to say that many societies may collapse under the strain of so much disabling and health damage.

But, if you don’t care about people, well, the solution is obvious: if they’re costing too much and enough money can’t be made off them, cull them.

And so it will be.


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