Those who know me know that I am generally an optimistic person. Optimistic because problems could be solved, for the most part. If they can’t be solved then they could be dealt with by adaptation. Problems present challenges that make life interesting. That has been true for many of the major obstacles in my life but now a new obstacle has given me pause. I don’t know if this particular problem has a solution that is better than the problem itself. The covid-19 outbreak is something new that has no legacy from which we could derive a solution. It is not a flu, it is not a plague, it isn’t the measles or polio. It is a different animal. Not necessarily worse than those but maybe. That is part of the problem. The experts have not seen such a virus and don’t fully understand it. They don’t quite know how it works, what the longterm affects are on the human body, if humans develop immunity to it and for how long. They don’t quite know how to treat it and definitely don’t know how to cure it. Unless the questions, those unknowns, are answered, the outcome of this pandemic remains obscured. The return to “normal” remains unlikely. What we are looking at is a change in our lives that nobody expected and wanted. For example, if the vaccine remains elusive for years and having had the virus does not impart immunity, does that mean that extended families will remain distant. Will I have dinner or spend a holiday with my mother before she dies?
The several plagues that ravaged the world during the middle ages and later were relatively easy diseases to deal with. Yes, they killed most people where they struck and they changed the course of human history, but should one of those particular diseases strike now, even if we did not know about them from the past, it would be analyzed and eradicated fairly quickly. It probably would not make the news other than a point of interest. That is not true for this virus. The way this virus appears to work, and this is based on the assumption that once infected you develop immunity, which is still in doubt, is that 60 to 70 percent of the worlds population must be infected by the virus before there is sufficient population (herd) immunity to stop the virus. That is assuming the acquisition of immunity and that is assuming that the virus does not mutate to a different virus that you are no longer immune to.
Back in December when I first heard about the coronavirus in China, my ears perked. I was not particularly concerned yet because I only had the information that was made available to me through the media, but I was interested. Later, in January, when a case was discovered in California, a case that at the time could not be traced, my level of concern suddenly jumped to the next threat level. In response to the California case I posted on Facebook on January 24th, “Don’t panic. Wait a few hours.” Our president, at the time, said “Its one case that will soon be gone”. Right.
Why was I concerned way back in December? Viruses are very, very small. They can’t remove your entire leg as would an African Tiger. (For those of you that are not familiar with the Monty Python body of work, I am alluding to the Meaning of Life). There are viruses everywhere. You are full of viruses. There are viruses here, there and everywhere. But most, nearly all, will not harm you. They are very specific in what they do and that is to reproduce. But they could only do that in very defined ways and in very specific organisms. A plant virus cannot harm you other than to destroy the food you need. But viruses mutate. A virus that is endemic in a particular animal, say bats, typically will not harm other species. Typically. However, viruses do evolve. That is mutate. Since they are so small and reproduce so quickly, they could go through thousands of mutations in the span of a year. Most of those mutations make no difference whatsoever. But all it takes is one mutation that gives the virus a viability in a different organism. Like humans. Once that happens, humans have no immunity to this virus because the human body has never seen it before. But again, this happens all the time and people don’t necessarily get sick. But once in a while, one does make you sick. Very sick. Like the Spanish Flu (aka the Kansas Swine Flu) which was a mutation of a bird virus. An unfortunate pig found itself between a sick bird and a sick human, catching both viruses. The two viruses joined forces within the pig developing the Spanish Flu that killed so many people at the end of WWI.
The Spanish Flu is still with us. It is one of those yearly flus that we all have to deal with. It’s no longer as virulent as it was but it still makes you sick. I get vaccinated every year because I can’t afford to have the flu. There is no vaccine for the Novel Coronavirus. Not yet, if ever. We are in the midst of a pandemic with no clear ending in sight. The government has good reason to end the pandemic because while people are not working they can’t pay taxes. The economy could easily fail if this “flu” does not end soon. However, in light of there not being a cure or a viable means of ending the covid-19 era, the government is giving us happy talk about getting back out and going back to work so we can pay our taxes. The New York area, where I am, is the last to do this but they will also. The pressure is too great not too. But the virus is still there. We still don’t have a vaccine, People are still not immune. People are going to keep getting sick and some of them are going to die. Maybe me, maybe you. That is why I’m not full of happy thoughts lately.
The idea that the old are disposable, being pushed by the right, is a despicable thought. It is inhuman. It goes against the sanctity of life. It is exactly what opening up the economy means. Without a vaccine or a viable treatment, people will get infected and some of them are going to die. That is just the way it is. Up till now the government has been trying to protect you at great cost to society and the economy. Now that protection is being taken away and you are being told to go out and live. What you are not being told is that the responsibility for your protection rests on you. It is you that has to take the necessary precautions to not catch the virus. The reason they are not telling you this is because the materials you will need to accomplish this feat are not generally available and they are not helping you to acquire them. Since all that is generally available are the disposable surgical masks or home made cloth masks, the meme that you wear masks to protect others is being disseminated. That is not enough. That concept requires that the other person is trying to protect you. Wearing a mask under your nose or wearing an ill fitting mask or not wearing one at all is not going to protect anybody. You need to protect yourself to stop the spread of the virus. You need equipment that will do the job to protect you and your family. That stuff is hard to find and it is expensive. People that do not have the resources to search for and pay for expensive masks will not, can not wear them and they will be the next wave of infection.
If you look at the globe you will see that so far the infection has been in the northern hemisphere. Now as we are entering summer, the southern hemisphere is entering winter. They are the next wave of infection that will last their winter. As people travel, as the airlines restart their routes, the virus will come back for a visit next fall when people will start to relax their vigilance. Hopefully by then better protection will be provided or a vaccine will have been developed. I, somehow, doubt either will be the case.