- 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 Omicron.
- 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.
- PCR Test– swabs the nose to detect the genes of the COVID virus. The genes if detected are almost certainly there, but they can persist long after contagion ends. Very few false positives, positives can be trusted.
- Antigen Test (the home kit)- swabs the nose to detect the proteins on the coating of the COVID virus, the spike proteins. If it does not detect those proteins, you are almost certainly not infected, negatives can be trusted. These proteins are also on the coating of many common cold viruses, so one positive test may indicate you have a cold rather than COVID. Two positive home tests though reliably indicate you have COVID.
- 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.
The catastrophe we call COVID or the COVID Pandemic will take over 1 million lives just here in the United States.
As of yesterday, this virus, and our human response to this virus, has taken the lives of 5.7 million people around the world.
When the US hits the 1 million died mark, that will mean that this infection, and our bone-headed choices in how to respond to it, have cost us the lives of 1 in 330 of all Americans.
That means soon 1 in 330 Americans will have died from this one disease. It means that many of these million died alone. It means many of these million could not be grieved in large gatherings. Many of these million funerals were limited to small numbers, excluding so many who wanted to be together to share their memories of someone they loved.
That means nearly 200,000 children were stripped of a parent, or other caregiver.
I suspect in the middle of most catastrophes that all of us tend not to see its full horror, as long as we are OK. I think about talking with friends who live in dangerous parts of the world who feel like life is OK. And it is OK for most of us during this Pandemic.
But like other horrifying catastrophes, when this one ends, I predict we will be horrified when we look back from safer ground, and see all that was lost.
At this moment of 900,000 of us killed by this virus and our choices in response, the themes remain quite similar as those that marked the other grim milestones of 700,000 and then 800,000 dead. But I think it only fair that every time another 100,000 of us die from COVID that we reflect on these realities.
First, we could have limited spread before the vaccines. In 2020, the United States led the world in failing to identify who was infected and isolating them. Readers of Real Answers will remember countless pleas going back to February of 2020, before there were hardly any cases in the US, begging our nation to implement massive testing, identification, contact tracing, and isolation efforts.
We could have done this, we chose not to. Nations that did had few deaths. Our nation had many. Had we identified the infected, isolated them, we would have lost about 15,000 American as of today instead of marking 900,000 dead!
I will never understand how we failed to do this.
Second, we could have adopted universal vaccination. Since the introduction of universal availability of the COVID vaccine, the reality of COVID shifted dramatically. Suddenly every eligible person had the actual choice to get 2-3 shots and nearly eliminate the chance of dying of COVID, and even better, had we all done so, stop or substantially block its spread.
Instead, the United States once again led the world in a deadly concept- taking up arms against saving lives! Surely every vaccine has people who would rather not, but this was radically different. In this instance, a serious, national movement caught fire, whisking up vast millions into its insanity.
Not only was a COVID anti-vax movement ignited, but it combined with violent politics to threaten the lives of those devoted to saving ours.
I personally know of health care professionals who experienced the sort of abuse handed out to airline attendants once the vaccine became available. Before that time, COVID patients in the hospital were so eager to get well, so grateful to the doctors and nurses who put their lives at risk to save theirs.
Now ICUs have become places where violent protests erupt. Doctors and nurses report the unimmunized despise the health care teams, accusing them of lying about their diagnosis of COVID, physically abusing these heroes, throwing insults at them as they put in hours and hours to save their lives. I know of some health care professionals who have left our sacred profession in response to constant threats of violence.
These realities are now seared into this number of 900,000 and they will be seared into our number of 1 million dead by April.
All my life I have seen over 95% of Americans get their kids fully immunized for kindergarten. That is an immunization mandate, you can’t go to school without your shots. And yes, some protested and some denied the shots, but many of these shots hit 95% coverage for most of my professional life. Certainly we never heard anyone argue that such a mandate threatened anyone’s freedom. If someone didn’t want their kids immunized, they simply didn’t do it, there were no organized, violent efforts to end the requirement for everyone.
But this is COVID in America, we live in a time when millions have taken up arms, and many of them have taken action, to rise up in violent furor over the ask that we all pitch in, get 2-3 shots, and save the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans, parents, grandparents, and yes, even children.
I will never understand how the position that millions would work so hard to make sure so many died of a fully preventable death took hold as popular and cost us so many lives.
- We now have lost 900,000 lives in America. Nearly all have been by our choice, a terrifying, maddening reality that will cost us 1 million lives soon.
- First it was the decision not to identify and not to isolate.
- And then it was the decision of about 1/4 of America to actively choose to help the virus kill hundreds of thousands more by rising up against vaccination.
My One Takeaway Sentence:
We take this moment to once again acknowledge the death of another 100,000 with fervent hope we change our ways now, meaning get vaccinated if you or your child is not NOW, or face another 100,000 dead soon.
To your health,
Dr. Arthur Lavin