Surviving a Plague


Hey! Did you ‘fall back’ this morning? Remind me why we’re still doing this antiquated clock juggling in 2020. It makes no sense to me. The wild critters milling about on my lawn, without a manufactured care in the world, still wanted to be fed when the sun came up, no matter what time you wanna call it.

Germany’s Madame Tussaud Dumps Trump

I’m as full of election hysteria as a goose pre-pate – I’m about ready to burst.  We’re now three days before “the most important election of our time!” as it’s being called.

Get a grip, says I; all that’s on the line is democracy, human rights, and the fate of the planet, for pete’s sake.  

Since I was a very lone dissenter in 2016 (I actually DID foresee trump winning) I hesitate to share my gut sense of what will happen with the 2020 election. While it looks like trump and his supporters are panicking over Biden’s lead in the polls, there’s many a slip twixt the cup and the lip, as the proverb says. I won’t release this breath I’m holding until I see Biden taking the presidential oath on the Bible in January.

So, let’s talk about the other elephant in the room – the global pandemic that has been our faithful companion since (depending on your country and inclination) February or March of 2020.  

Toronto’s Dundas Square, April 2020

What lessons have we learned, having lived through these ‘interesting times’ with which we have been cursed?

Like a divorce or a bankruptcy, it started out slow, and then happened all at once. One day you were going about your business like always – the next you were living under COVID, lining up for everything, and wondering where your next roll of toilet paper was gonna come from.

I think history will show that one of the biggest mistakes our governments made in handling the COVID-19 crisis was in making it political. Politics should never have had anything to do with how governments dealt with citizens; it is and has always been a universal public health care issue. Care and prevention have to be non-partisan, since this virus disregards our voting patterns, and is only manageable by health care experts.

With that in mind, it should never have become a left- or right-wing talking point, or something that the average citizen, bereft of scientific credentials, should have been attempting to deal with on a personal basis. A virus is not personal – it’s only purpose and goal are to infect humans. Like every other infectious disease, there are scientific ways to protect against infections, and then there are pseudo scientific, con man, weasel ways to pretend that we can magic them away.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Everett/Shutterstock (10410768a) Spanish Flu Epidemic 1918-1919 in America. TO PREVENT INFLUENZA, a Red Cross nurse is pictured with a gauze mask over her nose and mouth. Text next to the image provides tips to prevent influenza. Oct. 18, 1918. From Illustrated Current News, New Haven. Photo by Paul Thompson, NY

In truth, the few real preventative measures remain the same:  

Wash your hands. Avoid touching your face.  Stay home if you can, but if you can’t, keep your distance from others. And wear a mask.

That’s it, that’s all.

America, led by the self-proclaimed ‘stable genius,’ has been pretending that COVID-19 never happened. Or that, if it did, it’s certainly not an issue any longer. On Thursday, Donald Trump Jr even told trumpCultists that “the number (of deaths) is almost nothing.

The number of deaths for just that day alone was 1004.

And those 1,004 are now part of the 228,000-plus Americans who have succumbed to the virus since it appeared in the United States in early spring. That number isn’t “almost nothing.” It’s almost four times the number of Americans killed in the Vietnam War. It’s almost double the number of Americans killed in World War I. And it’s 228,000-plus families whose lives will never be the same.” (Cnn.com)

Trump’s new pet non-expert, Dr Scott Atlas, a radiologist, has had the president’s ear on how to deal with the Coronavirus issue. He has also usurped the place of actual experts and scientists with years of specific training and expertise of infectious diseases.   

“As a White House advisor, Dr Atlas actually appeared on Russian state media on Saturday and criticized lockdown measures aimed at tackling the virus, saying they were “killing” Americans.

Atlas, a radiologist, spoke to RT, formerly Russia Today, which is funded by the Kremlin and has been accused of being part of organized Russian propaganda, according to the Internet Institute at the University of Oxford.”  (Newsweek.com)

Some might call Dr Atlas’ unprecedented foray into Russian propaganda treason. Nonetheless, he remains one of trump’s (and presumably, Putin‘s) most trusted agents.

Dr Atlas has also been a strong proponent of Sweden’s position on Coronavirus policy.

Sweden decided to go its own way, with so called ‘herd immunity,’ and they are now, and will continue for years, to pay for that decision in Swedish deaths.

As of Oct. 13, Sweden’s per capita death rate is 58.4 per 100,000 people, according to Johns Hopkins University data, 12th highest in the world (not including tiny Andorra and San Marino). But perhaps more striking are the findings of a study published Oct. 12 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, which pointed out that, of the countries the researchers investigated, Sweden and the U.S. essentially make up a category of two: they are the only countries with high overall mortality rates that failed to rapidly reduce those numbers as the pandemic progressed.” Time Magazine, October 2020

Based on a fair amount of research I’ve done on the concept of herd immunity; most people don’t have a clear understanding of how it works – and that includes actual scientific researchers. It seems that herd immunity is something that can be clinically observed only in hindsight; analysing the data after the fact, maybe from a historical distance of as long as ten years afterwards. That’s really the only way to see what happened, where, and to whom.

Herd immunity is not ‘magic.’  It happens when a virus can’t spread, because people are protected against infection, usually, but not always, by a vaccine. You don’t need everyone to be immune, but you need enough immune people, or people avoiding new infections, to allow the virus to peter out. The term should actually be ‘herd protection,’ because it’s not really about immunity to the virus, it’s about reducing risk to the vulnerable who might come into contact with those who have been infected.

And even in the case of high vaccination pockets, it’s still possible to have local outbreaks, despite having already sacrificed the most vulnerable in a society to the disease.

According to network scientist, Samuel Scarpino, Most of the herd-immunity calculations don’t have anything to say about behaviour at all. They assume there’s no interventions, no behavioural changes or anything like that,” This means that if a transient change in people’s behaviour (such as physical distancing) drives the Rt down, then “as soon as that behaviour goes back to normal, the herd-immunity threshold will change.”

If we accept that there’s no magic pill, no ‘herd immunity’ that will save us, sans maintaining the precautions we’ve been chafing under for the last eight months, then we must somehow learn to make peace with our anxiety. Despite the difficulties of dealing with COVID, worrying about the election, and generally trying to cope with all the chaos of winter nearing, uncertainties, even our own place in the universe, we are only in control when we accept that we are out of control, and experiencing anxiety overload. We’re not going crazy, we’re human. We need to self-soothe – no one else can do that for us.

That really is the size of it. Anxiety overload stresses out our adrenals. We want fight or flight, but who do we fight? and where can we go? When the stress builds up, we are prone to falling into a depression, or to lashing out blindly. Anti maskers, although they know logically that the virus is not to blame, will still strike out blindly, mourning the loss of their usual soft places to fall.

When fight or flight kicks in, the first thing to go is civilization. Kindness and patience become luxuries. Those gentle ministrations that help us through hard times fly out of the window, and may never return.

Another major mistake that governments made, which also plays into our anxiety and feeling of helplessness, was in downplaying the health issues that COVID sufferers went thru from the infection, as well as in not making the population aware of the horrible and lonely death that was in store for those who did not survive. 

A woman named Sonja Mally, a Torontonian tattoo artist, wrote a long description of her nearly eight-month battle with the disease on Facebook. Hundreds have now read about the hell she has gone through. The disease affects everyone differently. Her experience began mildly, and then torturously cycled through nearly every inch of her body.

The first round attacked my respiratory system. From there it worked its way into my vascular system and spread through my entire body.

This is what it the following half-year looked like….

In between relentless coughing fits I struggled to breathe as every inhalation felt like I was drawing in fluid. I was in and out of consciousness. When I was awake I studied the internal structure and function of the lungs and airways. I slept in prone position and used the postural drainage and chest PT techniques meant for coping with cystic fibrosis. I did breathing exercises. I ordered a blood pressure monitor and a pulse oximeter so I would know if I needed to call an ambulance. I followed a strict anti inflammatory diet and adjusted my supplements and fluid/electrolyte intake. My doctor ordered bloodwork and told me to continue to rest. I tried to make sure any messages from friends or clients I responded to were left off on a nice note, just in case. I waited for recovery but it didn’t come.“

She ends her long chronicle with this,

The local Canadian group I most frequent for Covid Long-Haulers had a handful of members when I first joined. Today they are over 7.6 thousand with new members pouring in daily. The focus is on sharing information to help others navigate this nightmare and conducting interviews with the media to help spread the word, so we can educate the public while we wait for the CDC and government to catch up. Like me, many of these “Covid long-haulers” were young, very active, fit and healthy with no pre-existing or underlying conditions. A notable number of them were athletes before they fell ill. As this is a virus that can travel through your entire body and affect any organ, no two cases or experiences are exactly alike. But we all share overlapping symptoms with one another. I documented 80 symptoms, from terrifying to extremely bizarre, and each one of those symptoms were reported by a significant number of other people in these groups.

Around this time last year I was running around the woods, climbing trees and making art. Now I’m trying to retrain my body to walk. I don’t know when I’ll be able to make art again. One step at a time. This is a “mild” case. I’m still one of the lucky ones.”

So many of us have had no physical interaction with anyone who has had the infection, so it’s not possible for us to imagine what it would be like, should we be one of those who are infected. Ms Mally cautions us to remember that, “There are hundreds of thousands more just like me. When I first got sick in March, nurses were already talking about having to prepare for the upcoming fall/winter/spring when the bad wave hits. We’re heading into it now. I am begging people to please be safe and do the right thing. I may lose “friends” for speaking up, but if this post manages to reach one person, helps to influence one decision, that in turn spares one life, it’s well worth it.”

The lessons are coming hard and fast now. Wear your masks, people. It’s our first, and maybe our last, best defense, in our hopes of surviving these times of plague.

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