Saturday, January 15, 2022

Life In the Times of the Virus: Omicron Update

Drug Store - Edward Hopper 1927
So, are we back to normal? No, no we are not.

Am I tired of this? Yes, I am. You're tired too. We are all tired. And yet we row on.

When last we spoke on the matter, some six months ago, Delta was just blooming. Viruses mutate over time, and on occasion, one shows up that is more adapted to its environment and overtakes the previously popular model. And it was the case with Delta, and now Omicron (which sounds particularly threatening - wait until we get to Omega in the alphabet). Now, Omicron is a more successful virus because not only is it more virulent (spread faster and more easily) but it has the added feature of not killing its host immediately (Dead host = dead virus, so actually Delta is not an very effective virus from a continuing existence standpoint, but speaking as the potential host, it is nasty enough).

Anyway, the end result is after declining numbers, we are seeing more cases and hospitalizations, and the resources are strained right now. In Washington State, we have seen fewer deaths over time, particularly among the vaccinated, but still have hit 1 million cases and 10,000 overall deaths (WA's population is 7.6 million). And people are saying it is going to get worse in the next couple weeks.

And why? Well, part of it is because Omicron is better adapted to its environment. But part of it is because we've gotten tired of it. We want to go out. We want to go back to work. We want the kids back in school. We want to put this whole thing behind us. We want to miss it, but we can't miss it if it doesn't go away. 

And yeah, most of the current casualties are from people who decided that the vaccinations are not for them. There is an entire sub-Reddit dedicated to people who have publicly come out against vaccinations, then catch the coronavirus and die. And that makes me more sad than angry. Yeah, it is the perfect sort of inverse Boy Cries Wolf tale, but I am still saddened by people who are deciding to take the risk that somehow they won't be victims, and then lose. Despite this, I don't think they should be turned away at the hospital, or charged more, or otherwise punished for decisions that overclog the hospitals. I'm just sad.

But there are breakthrough infections, and those who have gotten vacced and boostered are catching the coronacrud as well. It is not nearly as fatal, but still is no walk in the park. The vaccinations can reduce the severity of the disease, but not limit exposure to it. Sort of like seat belts - they can increase survivability in a crash, but not take that drunk driver running the redl ight off the road.

Here on Grubbstreet we got boostered, and the results were a lot more severe than last time. Last time was no biggie, but this round of boosters left both the Lovely Bride and I wiped out of the day. Which makes a little sense, since our immune systems were prepared for something coming in, and then responded heavily. So it was an expected day off.

Mask discipline has changed. Over time, I've lost the hand-made masks I started with, and the logo-ed masks from my company (discarded/lost masks have replaced cigarette butts as the urban refuse of choice). I've switched almost entirely to the black KN95s that are this year's fashion statement. And we are fortunate, because our neighborhood is pretty solid as well - I go to the grocery store and the overwhelming majority are masked, and the overwhelming majority of those are wearing them correctly. Good going, team.

No one wants to shut everything down, but we may not get a choice. Schools are closing for lack of teachers. Alaska is losing 10% of its flights because it doesn't have the manpower. We've called out the National Guard to support the hospitals. I hate the idea of returning to quarantine and to vaccine mandates, but I am just so tired of it all. And yeah, you probably are too.

And the most frustrating thing about it is that we have shifted in an attitude of "Let's do everything to stop the spread!" to one of "Yeah, you're probably going to get it, but it (hopefully) won't be too lethal". So this contributes to the feeling of frustration and exhaustion.

And here's a thing. In the before times, I remember how we talked about the Spanish Flu of a century ago. Not Spanish in origin, but that's where it first identified (sort of like people getting made at South Africa for announcing Omicron). There were a bunch of hygiene attempts and resistors and overburdened hospitals, and yeah, it sounds AWFULLY similar to the present. But then there was the Great Forgetting, as the news of the Influenza got swallowed by the Roaring Twenties and Prohibition and labor disruptions and rising Fascism and ...

Hey, the future doesn't repeat, but sometimes it rhymes. And the rhymes are pretty tight these days.

More later.