- Virus– a type of germ that consists solely of a bit of genetic material (DNA or RNA) wrapped in a protein coat. The coat gets the genes into the target cell where the genes force the cell to make zillions of new viruses (genes and protein coat), and on it goes.
- Variant- also known as a mutation, a variant strain of a virus is the same species of virus but with a change in the genetic code. The change is minor if it has no impact on contagious the new variant is, or how deadly it is, or if it allows the virus to neutralize our vaccines. Variants that substantially increase harm are now listed by Greek letters, the most troublesome one now is Delta.
- Coronavirus– a species name of a number of different viruses. Called corona because its protein coat is studded with spike shapes that form a crown, halo, or corona of spikes
- SARS-CoV-2– the specific name of the new coronavirus
- COVID-19-the name of the illness that the new coronavirus is causing
- Endemic– an illness always present in a region. One could say strep throat is endemic in the US
- Epidemic– a sudden burst of an illness that comes and goes over a limited time
- Pandemic– an epidemic that bursts across the world not just one region
- Spreadability– how contagious is the disease, how many people will end up infected
- Symptoms- the experience of being ill, for example- fever, cough, headaches, loss of smell etc.
- Asymptomatic– literally means “without symptoms”. For COVID-19 it refers a person infected with the virus but has no and will have not symptoms
- Presymptomatic– This is a person who was infected with SARS-CoV-2, and will feel sick, but hasn’t yet
- Severity– what harm does the disease cause, in terms of how sick you get and how many it will kill
- Mask- a mask is a loose-fitting cloth or textile that covers the mouth and nose loosely. A surgical mask is a mask used in surgery
- Respirator- for the purposes of the COVID-19 pandemic and other respiratory illnesses, a respirator is a mask that fits very snugly or tightly to the user’s face. An N95 mask is a respirator.
- Live Virus Swab– this is the swab which attempts to swipe live virus from one’s nose or throat to see if you are currently infected.
- Antibody Test- (aka serology test) this is the blood test which looks for antibody to the SARS-CoV-2 virus to see if you have been infected in the past.
- Vaccine Terms
- Vaccine or Immunization– a dose of a substance that activates your immune system, as if you have the actual infection you are hoping to prevent, leaving you in fact protected from having that infection.
- Efficacy– the percentage of people immunized with a particular vaccine who will not get infected if exposed to the target infection. For example, a COVID-19 vaccine will be said to be 95% effective if 95% of people immunized with that particular COVID-19 vaccine will not get COVID-19 if exposed to COVID-19
- mRNA– DNA works by dictating exactly which proteins your cell will make. The message on how to construct each protein is delivered to the cell machinery that makes proteins by a piece of genetic material called messenger RNA, or mRNA
- mRNA vaccine– an mRNA vaccine places a small bit of mRNA code that makes your cells make a protein that is the protein from a virus that alerts your immune system and activates it to make protections against you being infected
- Viral vector vaccine– a viral vector vaccine takes a harmless virus that is known to infect people reliably and places that weakened virus in a person where that virus will in fact infect the person. The virus is not only weakened, but also attached to a set of genes that makes your cells make a protein that is the protein from a virus that alerts your immune system and activates it to make protections against you being infected.
Early Good News on Omicron- Boosters Work
The Omicron variant is here, and as any new variant of COVID threatens, this new variant forces us all to wonder about 3 ways it could cause real harm:
- Does Omicron spread more than Delta or other COVID virus variants? If it does, there will be more cases, more trouble.
- If you get Omicron are you more likely to get very ill or die? If it does there will be more death, more tragedy.
- Does Omicron hurt the immunized? If it makes those fully immunized no longer protected, we could all be plunged into early 2020 again!
We still are waiting for more information, but some early data are in. These are preliminary observations, so our understanding could change with more information. But with that said, here are the first indicators on these 3 urgent questions.
It looks like Omicron spreads a lot better than Delta. We know what happened when Delta let loose, because it spread so much better. This could not come at a worse time. COVID clearly spreads better when people pack into indoor spaces, it always has and always will. Having a new variant that spreads even better than Delta as we all go indoors for the winter is very bad news.
This might be good news. It looks like people with Omicron COVID do not get as sick as those infected with Delta. Let us dearly hope this holds. If it does, this may not become the major danger that Delta was.
Wipes out Vaccine Help?
Just this week, we heard official news from Pfizer and Moderna, and it is very, very, very good news.
For all those who have had 3 doses of Pfizer or Moderna, you should be protected against serious harm from Omicron.
The numbers are powerful. Those with 3 doses of Pfizer or Moderna are 10 times less likely to get infected with Omicron, and the chance of dying if infected with Omicron is dropped- the risk of death drops 90%!!
Early Bad News of COVID This Winter- Here in Ohio
The early indicators of a tragic surge in COVID that we began to see in Ohio on November 1 has taken hold and only gotten far worse. I am very sad to report that we are in the middle of a major, major surge of COVID.
The surge seems to be a Northern phenomenon. If you look just at the Great Lakes states, with the exception of WI and MN, we are right now responsible for a full 50% of all COVID cases for the entire United States of America! Those states are NY, PA, OH, IN, MI, and IL.
Here in Ohio, let’s look at the number of new cases happening every day per 100,000 of a population. Recall that back in May and June of 2021, that number had dropped to about 1, and at that level, 1 per 100,000 having a new case each day, transmission seemed to have nearly ceased. That number in Ohio rose from July 18 to September 16 to a very worrisome level of 60. Then it seemed the Delta surge would fade, our numbers really dropped, hitting a low of 28 by October 31.
But with November came a second surge. And it is bad. Our number in Ohio, on December 10, has spiked to 65, even higher than our last peak!
Why November? Why the Great Lakes states?
We see a similar trend across the planet. Those numbers in Israel dropped to 0.7 in May and June. Their Delta spike was right the same time as in Ohio, exploding to 120 by September 16. But in Israel, their numbers dropped and only dropped since, so that today their number of new cases per 100,000 living there is 6. But at the same time, across Northern Europe, COVID rages to the point some have even locked down once more, including Austria.
Take a look here in the US. Southern states have far lower rates, COVID surges in the Great Lakes states are paralleled in NH and VT.
We really do not know, but the patterns raise the question, is the Delta variant, and even now the Omicron variant, thriving, spreading, in cold states and nations.
And, even in the cold nations and states where Delta is raging, it is causing death and hospitalizations almost entirely in people who have chosen not to vaccinate.
If these patterns do come to be explained by colder places increasing time packed indoors, we will see that vaccination protects the vaccinated, but will not stop the spread of COVID across the unimmunized until well over 85% of the total population is immunized. The US is at about 60%, which explains why we have surges despite so many immunized.
800,000 Americans Now Dead From COVID
5.3 Million People Around the World Now Dead From COVID
This landmark catastrophic number now marks a major moment in the history of American COVID.
The first 400,000 deaths took place before any COVID vaccine was available and represented an American failure to identify those infected and isolate them so that COVID would not spread.
These second 400,000 deaths took place when a vaccine was available to prevent nearly all of these deaths.
The first 400,000 was a failure of the American government to put into place testing and isolation resources used so well across so many nations.
But the second 400,000 deaths represents the result of so many million Americans actively choosing to ignore the danger, to actively choose not to get protected, actively choosing to let the virus cause 400,000 needless deaths.
As we approach this year’s holidays, I profoundly hope that those who have chosen to let this virus come and take their life to change their minds, to get this very safe vaccine, to keep us from losing another 400,000 lives in 2022!
- We should stop using the word booster for COVID vaccine. You are NOT FULLY IMMUNIZED until you have 3 doses of Pfizer or Moderna.
- For everyone 18 years old and up, it is URGENT that you complete your 3 dose vaccination ASAP. Only the full 3 dose vaccination will assure your safety in the face of Omicron. It is approved, it is free, it is available, get all 3 of your doses now.
- For those 16 and 17 years old, approval for the third dose should come SOON. As soon as it is available, get the 3rd dose!
- For those 5-15 years old, you are approved for 2 doses. The full course is really 3 doses, but 2 is SO much better than none!!
- Over 8 billion doses of COVID vaccine have been given around the world.
- We now KNOW it is SAFE. 8 billion doses, with far, far, far fewer side effects than meds people take without hesitating like Tylenol and cough syrup.
- We now KNOW it WORKS. And works damn well!! Right now those immunized are TRULY protected from dying from COVID.
- Omicron is here. It is spreading. We don’t have firm facts yet, but we have early indicators. And they suggest that Omicron is more contagious than even Delta, much more contagious. But it may not make people as sick, still deadly, but perhaps not as likely to kill. And, a THREE DOSE series of Pfizer or Moderna could very well dramatically protect against harm from Omicron.
- 2020 taught us the cost of a nation ignoring a raging attack- 400,000 lives lost. 2021 taught us the cost of choosing not to vaccinate- 400,000 lives lost, nearly all of whom could be alive today had they been vaccinated.
My One Takeaway Sentence:
GET VACCINATED, it could save your life, a full series even protects against Omicron!
Let us all join together in hoping that these holidays will be safe, healthy, and joyful, the vaccine is the surest way to make sure they are.