COVID Gets Creative
On Monday, April 18th, a judge struck down the federal mandate requiring masks for travel. But five days earlier, the New York Times had come out with a report that made public travel sound suicidal and mask-wearing sound like a necessity. New York State, where I live, was the epicenter for a new coronavirus wave to beat all other waves.
The new wave is powered by three—yes, count them, three– new COVID variants. The first is called BA.2. Until April 13th, BA.2 was the most contagious COVID virus the world had ever seen. It was 40% more infectious than any previous COVID mutant. And it was wreaking havoc around the globe. Then BA.2 was outdone by two of its offspring, BA.2.12 and BA.2.12.1.
And the two new subvariants were 25% more infectious than BA.2, which, remember, just a few weeks ago was the most infectious COVID variant on the planet. By April 26th, BA.2.12.1 had not only outcompeted BA.2, but had become the dominant variant in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. And it had jumped up 47% nationwide in a mere week.
The new subvariants have been detected in nearly every American state and in over 40 countries. Which means this new COVID wave is on its way to you.
This explains why the Department of Health and Human Services recently extended the National Public Health Emergency for 90 days and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tried to extend the mask mandate for travel by an extra two weeks.
There’s a lag between infections and hospitalizations. And an even longer lag between infections and death. So the CDC won’t know whether these new variants cause hospitalization and death until mid-May. Odds are good, however, that the new mutants are far less lethal than the variants that caused up to 4,100 COVID deaths a day in the United States just fifteen months ago.
When it comes to headlines, we’ve long since lost interest in the war with COVID. COVID, however, has not lost interest in us. Close to a million Americans have died of COVID so far. Well over 300 Americans a day are still dying of COVID. And that number could soon go back up.
In addition to the three B.2 variants, at least two other COVID variants are waiting in the wings—XE and XD.
Meanwhile, masking remains a politically explosive topic. Most of the fights breaking out on airlines during the last two years have been over masks. Why? According to a new survey of 2,000 Americans by University of Miami political scientist Joseph Uscinski, 30% of us believe that COVID is a plot or a hoax, a scam cooked up by the Chinese, by Democrats, or by global elites to hobble Donald Trump and to wedge us into a new form of totalitarian state.
So are masks really effective? A new study of masks by nine researchers at the California Department of Public Health shows that wearing an n95 mask can lower your chance of getting COVID if you spend an hour with a COVID-infected person to 20%. But if both of you wear masks, the odds of your getting COVID after an hour together go down to 1%.
Requiring masks on planes, trains, and buses, however, is nothing. Just be glad you’re not one of the 25 million residents of the Chinese city of Shanghai, who have been under a COVID lockdown so severe that families have gone without food and medicine and that factories have shut down.
And be glad you’re not Barry Manilow, who has been working to have his own musical off Broadway for 25 years, but wasn’t able to perform on opening night because he tested positive for COVID.
There’s a simple bottom line. No matter what your politics, getting vaccinated and boosted is the best way to avoid being hospitalized or dying of COVID. Even with the new variants. And masks DO help.
Andrejko KL, Pry JM, Myers JF, et al. Effectiveness of Face Mask or Respirator Use in Indoor Public Settings for Prevention of SARS-CoV-2 Infection — California, February–December 2021. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2022;71:212–216. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/
2022/04/13/world/COVID-19- mandates-cases-vaccine#two- new-omicron-subvariants-are- spreading-quickly-in-new-york- state