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

The Next Covid Wave Is Onrushing

Covid continues to evolve and it continues to do so in response to whatever is holding it back most.

In the case of Omicron BA.4 and BA.5, this is immunity: either from vaccines or previous infection.


Increasingly, scientists think that variants including Omicron and Alpha probably originated from months-long chronic SARS-CoV-2 infections, in which sets of immune-evading and transmissibility-boosting mutations can build up

Whatever holds back a species most is what it will gain the greatest advantage from mutating to defeat. Since most of the world outside of China is no longer bothering with even the most basic non-vaccine measures to stop the spread of Covid, this means vaccines and natural immunity.

By now readers should be familiar with how exponential growth works, and these charts should make you twitchy.

Now, since nearly the beginning of the pandemic this blog has warned about how waves of reinfections would cause spiraling Long Covid numbers. It was obvious this would be the case, both because it appears possible to get it each time you’re infected and because even when there are not obvious symptoms, Covid often does some permanent organ damage, including brain damage, which shows up when people are tested.

Here’s the current known damage in the US, just for cases with actual symptoms.

And here’s the math of reinfection:

You don’t want to get infected and you don’t want to get reinfected, especially now that BA.4 and BA.5 are immune escape variants.

Where I live, in Ontario Canada, all mask mandates have been removed. For a while people kept wearing them anyway, but what I’m seeing now is that even in something like the subway or in streetcars, which are tailor made for infection, more than half of people aren’t wearing masks.

And unless you’re wearing a properly fitted N95 mask or a respirator, masks don’t protect you that well: masks primarily protect other people if you’re infected, and remember that it’s very easy to be infected and infectious and not even now it, plus in places with inadequate sick leave, of which Ontario is one, most people who know they’re infected still have to go to work if they can: they can’t take two weeks off, they need the money, and their bosses don’t have to let them have the time off.

So continue to take this seriously. I wear n95 masks when I’m inside buildings or in a large crowd outside. The pandemic isn’t over, and our response to it is essentially to rely on luck that eventually a variant will be produced which is even more infectious but much milder.

That may happen, but we don’t if it will or when. Till then, I advise taking reasonable precautions, and don’t believe it when a new variant happens and people say “oh, it’s milder.” It might be slightly milder in the sense of not very likely to kill you, without being milder in the sense of less likely to cause Long Covid.



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  1. Ché Pasa

    Nothing to be done. Nothing to be done. Nothing to be done. Our overlords have done all they are going to do to control Covid among the masses; more actually, because of the swift vaccine release funded entirely by government. That was it. No more. Done.

    We’re on our own.

    But really, this has been the effective policy in the United States and much of the West since very early in the pandemic. “You’re on your own, sucker!”

    Most people have gone along with it, maybe with some unease, but what choice was there? There’s no real public health infrastructure or protocol any more. Resistance has been encouraged, and armed resistance in particular is instantly yielded to. Lockdowns lifted, mask mandates ignored, vaccine mandates fought. Upshot is there is no public health policy. Confusion and chaos reigns.

    By design.

    Covid is not Black Death level lethal. It looks to be twice to five times as lethal as flu. Not good, but not that bad. And these days, it barely touches the overclass at all. Interesting, that.

    So long as that’s the case, why should they care what happens to the lower orders? They don’t. They won’t.

    Something else is bound to come along — or may be encouraged to — to keep the mobs from continuing to overpopulate, and ultimately to reduce their burden on the earth.

    It’s all good, no?

  2. Seattle Resident

    Going to an outdoor wedding in a few weeks. 50 plus people with many from out of town including the soon to be married couple. My sister and law said that a requirement of attendance was to be vaxxed and she doesn’t appear to be all that concerned about infection possibilities as long as guests are vaxxed. No masking requirements for the guests from what I understand (I will be wearing an N95 and keeping a distance from most people most of the time when I can. I’ve read that the possibilities of infection are less in an outdoor setting, but can increase with a lot of people in such a setting.

    What can you do with Americans who just want to stick their heads in the sand?

  3. NR

    Ian, you may find this study of interest:

    It looks like COVID causes brain damage at the same rate as other respiratory tract infections. So it’s a good news/bad news situation. The bad news is that COVID can cause brain damage the same way these other respiratory tract infections can, but the good news is that it doesn’t appear to be any worse than those sorts of infections the way some feared.

  4. anon

    I’m the only person at my office who wears a mask anymore. Peer pressure has made more people decide to stop wearing a mask, including a colleague who still suffers from long Covid and another who has been infected with Covid twice this year. These are well educated liberals so there really is no hope that the USA will ever get this pandemic under control or prevent increasing long Covid numbers. It is a public health disaster to have nearly one in ten of a country’s citizens permanently disabled, both physically and mentally.

  5. marku52

    Ian, what’s the source for fig 6? That one is devastating.

  6. different clue

    @Seattle Resident,

    All the mainstream goverganda told the masses that getting vaccinated made you immune. Certain govergandists silently wispered that the vaccine was ” non-sterilizing” just enough to place a threadbare dropcloth of implausible deniability over the floods of goverganda designed to lead people into thinking the vaccination made you safe.

    So if your fellow Seattle-ites heads are in the sand, it is because the government stuck them there. And it is left to us lonely few to try pulling a head out of the sand here and there.

    The reality-based covid-cautious can recognize eachother by visible masking and other behaviors spottable by those who know what to look for. The best we can do is to find survival information and things to do, and share it with eachother and with those who seem ready to hear it.

    It helps to have a conspiracy-theory frame of mind. If you tend to see the world through tinfoil-colored glasses, you are prepared to see what the government has been doing here, and why. Of course, you also have to be able to take the tinfoil off whenever necessary or convenient. Otherwise, there is a danger of the tinfoil wearing you, rather than you wearing the tinfoil.

    Speaking of conspiracy theory . . . remember when WHO refused to classify covid as a pandemic until it was too deeply entrenched to reverse? WHO and its Gebreyesus are running the very same play from the very same playbook with the next coming pandemic which will be monkeypox.
    My conspiracy theory is that the Axis of WHO-Gebreyesus are conspiring to entrench monkeypox as an irreversible and permanent world pandemic, deliberately and on purpose, using the exact same methods of delay and denial which they used for covid just long enough to successfully make it irreversible. Deliberately and on purpose.

    So watch out for the monkeypox pandemic.

    How’s that for precautionary principle tinfoil? Don’t say I didn’t warn you. And don’t let Gebreyesus stick your head in his WHO-based monkeypox sand.

  7. StewartM

    At my job, my company is officially still promoting the “don’t have in-person meetings unless necessary” policy. Makes sense; there’s no compelling reason to meet in-person as there’s very little you can’t do in an online meeting. But lo and behold, the last two days I’ve seen the conference room next to our office area filled to the brim with unmasked attendees.

    I put it down to control-freak supervisors. The same ones who in online meetings want everyone’s camera turned on even though that just eats up bandwidth.

  8. BaryonicBeing


    It’s still bad news, unfortunately. They compared covid to influenza and bacterial pneumonia. The average person would expect to get influenza maybe once every few years (10 – 40 million infections/yr in US), and bacterial pneumonia maybe once or twice in a lifetime (American Lung Association says ~1,000,000 cases/yr in US). We can expect to get covid maybe once or twice per year at the rate things are going.

    So even if risk per infection is the same, the massive increase of infections raises the overall risk dramatically.

  9. rangoon78

    Another holiday, another chance to be guilt-tripped into gathering with those who’ve shown they don’t give a shit. Protect your mental health and reduce your stress. You don’t have to take responsibility for educating family members on safety measures, and you can take that energy and time and use it for self-care activities such as exercise, breath work, meditation, etc.

  10. NR


    Oh I know, it’s still bad. I wasn’t trying to say it wasn’t. It’s just not as bad as some people were afraid of. Which is cold comfort, but sadly it seems to be the best we can hope for these days.

  11. different clue


    The short-term not-so-bad disguises the long-term worse-than-you-know. You don’t have to believe me about that. All you have to do is ” watch. and learn” as Dr. Zoidberg once said on Futurama.


    There might be ways to tell the educable from the non-educable. If there are, it might make sense to educate them and avoid the non-educable. Clue in the clue-innable, avoid the clueproof. Let Darwin take them. No need for malice or schadenfruede towards the clueproof. Just dispassionate disregard for them and self-protecting disconnection from them.

    Those who have something to offer to any possible far-future survivors of Mankind’s Long Death March through the Valley of Selection should try to survive to carry that something-to-offer forward to a far future which might be able to use it.

  12. marku52

    @ Ian. Sorry but that figure 6 is not in that article. It does look to be in Nature’s format but I can’t find it, Sorry to nag.

  13. marku52

    NO, thank you for looking it up!

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