Deaths still high
The recorded average daily COVID-19 deaths in the United States, as of last Monday, February 21, 2022, was 2,308 the past week (almost 330 per day), and the daily average COVID-19 infections are 108,056. Yes, still that many in one day. The total confirmed cases are so far 78 million 688 thousand and 566, and the total confirmed deaths are 939,320, almost a million, the highest of any nation. While the cases are 64 percent down and the deaths 13.4 percent lower compared to two weeks ago, which are hopeful signs towards flattening the curve, these data are still too high for us to let our guards down at this time.
The latest clinical data show that those fully vaccinated (with two shots plus a booster) are greatly protected from Omicron and its Stealth subvariant, from severe symptoms, hospitalization, and deaths, but this does not guarantee even 70 percent immunity. Fully vaccinated individuals could still get a breakthrough infection but when they get it, they do not turn serious. This virus rapidly replicates and mutates, especially in the body of those unvaccinated, even children, and is spread around.
As I have repeatedly stated in the past, so long as there are unprotected (unvaccinated) persons, who are most vulnerable and are the main target of the virus, we will not be able to totally eradicate SARS-CoV2. The unvaccinated, compared to those who had the 3 shots, have a much higher risk of getting a severe infection, a higher hospitalization rate requiring a ventilator, and a much greater chance of dying. COVID-19 predictably could become endemic in the United States which we have to live with, and for which we will be required to have an annual (semi-annual because it wanes?) COVID-19 vaccination, like the Flu.
Science, not politics
People are confused because they are left on their own to decide what to do, unfortunately, because we do not have unified national mandates on mitigation and vaccination to guide us wisely. The government left the decision to “We, The People,” who are not epidemiologists or trained experts and are actually ignorant in managing infectious diseases. For political correctness, those spineless medically-uninformed/misinformed politicians, in order not to alienate future voters, continue to defend their “medical” position by proclaiming they only want to empower the parents, the people, and allow them to exercise their civil liberties, their freedom of expression, and choice about vaccination, masking, and social distancing.
All this sounds good, but they are medically wrong. Should we allow untrained people to do electrical works in our home, or let parents decide whether to have their child with ruptured appendicitis to have surgery or not, or for a non-physician to do surgery on us or our loved ones? So why allow medically untrained people to make medical decisions as to whether to accept the vaccines or not, to wear a mask or not, earlier during the pandemic or at this juncture of this calamity?
The wrong medical positions championed by most politicians, including physician-legislators in Congress and Governors of various States are against science and against the proven, effective, evidence-based epidemiologic protocol we already have for decades, accepted by scientists around the world in managing infectious diseases, especially a killer virus that has so far infected 426 million 238 thousand 625 and killed 5 million 908 thousand and 923 (almost 6 million) around the globe.
Political correctness, fake news, misinformation, and disinformation, rampant in social media, have contributed to the increase in infections and the number of deaths of countless people among those reported victims. Yes, politics and erroneous information could be deadlier than the killer virus.
Questions have been raised about whether we still have to wear a mask and do social distancing in public places at this phase of the pandemic. The short realistic answer is: medically, yes, especially when you are in an area with high COVID-19 infections, and when in enclosed rooms, restaurants, stores, schools, theaters, sports/entertainment arenas, or public transportation including buses, trains, ships, airplanes. Distancing, avoiding the crowd is most prudent. The rationale: the numbers of new cases and deaths are still too high to be safe without a mask and social distancing, except outdoors where the wind factor helps a lot in dissipating the virus.
Improper masks (made of cloth material, and using them improperly, with the nose sticking out) provide no protection. The recommended mask is the NIOSH-approved N95 mask and must be worn tightly fitted around the face. The SARS-CoV2 virus is about 0.1 – 0.5 micron (600 times smaller than a grain of salt) and NIOSH-approved N95 masks have super-tiny pores, small enough to filter out 99.8 percent of the virus. For a better fit, double masking, the use of a gaiter or plastic brace over the mask will do the trick. Masking, even among children, does not hurt the wearer. Surgeons and nurses have been wearing them for hours on end and their oxygen saturation remains within normal levels. More than 12 million 341 thousand 801 children have been infected with COVID-19 since the pandemic started; 12,300 have died as of last month, 58 percent among ages 10-19, and 42 percent among ages 0-9. Yes, children could die from COVID-19 and they do transmit the virus to others.
The combination of two long-acting Monoclonal Antibodies (tixagevimab and cilgavimab, brand name Evushield form AstraZenica) to prevent COVID-19 has been approved by the FDA for high-risk individuals, including children 12 years and older (at least 88 pounds) for the prevention of COVID-19 among (1) those who are severely immunocompromised, or (2) did not respond to the vaccines, and (3) those who are severely allergic to the COVID-19 vaccines. The authorization does not include persons not infected or those not exposed to COVID-19. The clinical trials show the injection reduced getting the infection by 70 percent. The supplies are scares and those who simply opt not to get the vaccines but do not satisfy those three criteria above may not be eligible to get Evushield.
About 10.5 billion doses of the vaccines have been administered worldwide, more than 212 million (64.24 percent) of the population of the United States have received the shots, proving how safe and effective vaccines are. Waiting to get infected to get natural immunity could be potentially deadly, even with Omicron, and not a guarantee the infection would confer good quality and lasting immunity. Vaccination is still the best option to prevent COVID-19.