I can understand why people go out to work at this stage in the pandemic, especially those who are faced with starvation or eviction. But I do not get the "Oh, I'm so bored and over it" factor driving people to airplane trips, restaurant meals, gyms, concerts, cinemas, etc. Nor do I get the jerks-- worldwide, as it turns out, so not just in backward hellholes like Idaho-- who violently protest their government's attempt at preventing the pandemic from getting out of control.
We've seen rioting among Ultra-Orthodix covidiots in Israel (and Brooklyn) for months. Last week saw anti-lockdown protests across Germany, even as new cases spiked dangerously. Over the weekend, DW reported that "Protesters attacked several members of Germany's security forces in the central city of Kassel... on Saturday, as over 20,000 people took to the streets to decry the anti-pandemic lockdown... Police used water cannon and pepper spray against protesters rallying over the coronavirus lockdown... The protest has been co-organized by the Querdenken (Lateral Thinking) movement, a group that has been behind many such demonstrations during the pandemic. The demonstrations are considered by experts to have considerable potential as superspreader events. One study conducted by the ZEW economic institute in Mannheim and the Humboldt University in Bonn concluded that two demonstrations in Leipzig and Berlin in November caused many thousands of infections. German authorities have also been looking into links between the Querdenken scene and far-right elements, particularly after an incident last year in which the Reichstag in Berlin was rushed by a group of demonstrators from a coronavirus deniers' protest. Other rallies were planned in Berlin and Munich on Saturday. In the capital, only some 500 people were reported to have turned up and were massively outnumbered by a 1,800-strong police contingent, according to the Associated Press. Germany is officially in the grip of a third wave of the pandemic, with more than 16,000 new infections reported on Saturday."
Has a next wave arrived in Europe? Yesterday's reported new cases in the dozen worst-hit countries-- minus Spain, where the pandemic is so catastrophic that the government has stopped reporting!
France- 35,345 new cases + 185 new deaths (current critical cases: 4,287)
Poland- 26,406 new cases + 350 new deaths (current critical cases: 2,315)
Italy- 23,718 new cases + 401 new deaths (current critical cases: 3,387)
Ukraine- 15,292 new cases + 260 new deaths (current critical cases: 177)
Germany- 13,665 new cases + 123 new deaths (current critical cases: 2,848)
Hungary- 11,132 new cases + 227 new deaths (current critical cases: 1,237)
Czechia- 9,688 new cases + 120 new deaths (current critical cases: 1,992)
Russia- 9,632 new cases + 392 new deaths (current critical cases: 2,300)
Netherlands- 7,593 new cases + 16 new deaths (current critical cases: 602)
Romania- 6,096 new cases + 112 new deaths (current critical cases: 1,324)
U.K.- 5,587 new cases + 96 new deaths (current critical cases: 830)
Belgium- 5,140 new cases + 26 new deaths (current critical cases: 543)
Al Jazeera reported yesterday that there were protests not just in Germany, but across Europe, including Austria, the UK, Finland, Romania and Switzerland. There were over 200,000 at the Kassel protest. They reported that "Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Friday that Germany will have to apply an “emergency brake” and reverse some recent relaxations of restrictions as coronavirus infections accelerate. Germany’s national disease control centre said new infections were growing exponentially as the more contagious COVID-19 variant first detected in the United Kingdom has become dominant in the country."
But protesters say the measures such as the closure of non-essential shops, hotels, restaurants and gyms are a threat to their freedom.
In London, demonstrators opposing the UK’s months-long lockdown defied police who warned of potential fines and arrest for violating prohibitions on group meetings.
In Finland, police estimated that about 400 people without masks, packed tightly together, gathered in the capital Helsinki to protest government-imposed COVID-19 restrictions.
In Austria, about 1,000 protesters participated in a demonstration against the government’s virus measures near Vienna’s central train station.
In Switzerland, more than 5,000 protesters met for a silent march in the community of Liestal 15km (9 miles) southeast of the city of Basel, local media reported.
More than 1,000 anti-vaccination protesters took to the streets in Romania’s capital of Bucharest amid a surge of COVID-19 infections there.
The largely mask-less crowd honked horns, waved national flags, and chanted messages such as “Block vaccination,” and “Freedom.” One placard read: “Parents, protect your children! Stop the fear!”
Meanwhile, this morning, The Guardian reported that Germany and Belgium were poised to tighten their lockdowns and EU leaders have cancelled plans to meet in person as coronavirus infection rates continue to surge... The number of infections per 100,000 inhabitants hit 103.9 on Sunday, the institute said, above the 100 threshold at which it is deemed that Germany’s intensive care units will no longer be able to cope. Politicians across Europe voiced concerns over the weekend about the ability of their health systems to deal with the seemingly inevitable third wave of infection."
In the U.S., recent surveys show that as many as half of white Republican males plan to refuse vaccination. Yes, yes, it would be a great boon to the nation and the gene pool if they all died but, unfortunately, if that many people refuse to be vaccinated, the pandemic will continue to rage and more-- possible resistant-free-- variants will propagate freely.
Stat News reported on Saturday that despite cheerleading by clueless politicians and others who want the pandemic to be over, "epidemiologists have been warning it might not be a smooth road to that point, and now, data in some states are pointing to, if not just stalled progress, increased cases."
“This tension between the desire to start opening up and the risk associated with B.1.1.7 is placing us in a precarious position,” said infectious disease researcher Yonatan Grad of Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “It would be great if people could wait a little bit longer until we get higher levels of vaccine coverage.”
Some experts say that it’s too early to know if the current rise in cases in some places will stay on those trajectories; it’s possible that some of these are short-lived blips. But what’s occurring could be the early days of what infectious disease specialists had warned about: localized springtime outbreaks that, while not on the scale of the winter surges, will lead to more people getting sick. The potential of that scenario is adding pressure to accelerate vaccine campaigns.
An open question is whether or to what extent a corresponding rise in hospitalizations and deaths will follow an increase in cases-- a feature of the first three waves of the U.S. epidemic. B.1.1.7 seems to be deadlier than other coronavirus strains, but older people and people with other health conditions-- those most vulnerable to severe Covid-19 and death-- are increasingly being vaccinated.
It’s possible then that the worst effects of potential B.1.1.7-driven outbreaks will be blunted somewhat, though surges could lead to higher hospitalization rates among younger populations still waiting for vaccines. Vaccine campaigns have also been slow to reach people of color, who have been disproportionately sickened and killed by the pandemic. And even with a vaccine rollout clicking into gear-- about 40% of people 65 and older are fully vaccinated, according to federal data, and the vast majority of long-term care residents are-- about a third of people in that age group haven’t received any dose.
“That is going to be a group that could very, very adversely be impacted by this virus,” said Michael Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, who has been more dire than many experts in his warnings about B.1.1.7.
Whether local epidemics grow or shrink depends on what’s called the effective reproductive number-- how many additional people each infected person infects on average. If the number is at 1, the curve stays flat; if it’s above 1, epidemics expand.
There are multiple factors right now that are acting as a drag on that number-- that would help communities keep the number below 1 and shrink their epidemics. Millions of people are being vaccinated each day, and the global evidence increasingly suggests mass immunization not only protects people from Covid-19, but reduces viral spread. Warmer weather allows for more activities outside and appears to blunt some of the efficiency with which the virus circulates. The country is also nearing 30 million confirmed Covid-19 cases, but the true number could be more than 100 million people having some protection from a previous infection-- a big wall of natural immunity.
Still, lots of people remain susceptible to the virus. And together, B.1.1.7 snowballing in prevalence in more places and political leaders tossing off mask mandates and other interventions that reduce contact among people are pulling that reproductive number back up. It’s also spring break.
Think of all those factors like being in a tug-of-war. A yank from one side or the other could bring the number above or below 1. It’s not clear what’s going to win out in every community, though all the counterforces could limit how precipitously cases rise or fall-- and help explain why they’ve plateaued for the time being.
The country’s reproductive number as a whole is hovering right around 1, according to the latest estimates from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s PolicyLab. But the researchers there see ominous signs of growth or frustrating stalls in and around cities in the Midwest and East Coast.
“There is still a significant burden of virus in the community that we need to respect,” said Brian Fisher, one of the CHOP researchers. “Don’t think we’re past the entire risk period.”
There is some concern that what’s occurring in Europe-- surges in infections driven in part by B.1.1.7-- is a preview of the U.S. epidemic. The variant’s course in those countries followed by a few weeks a similar pattern in the U.K., and once it took sufficient hold, cases started going up. Countries such as Italy and France have imposed new restrictions to slow the spread.
The fear is that the United States could just be a few weeks behind Europe. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned B.1.1.7 could become dominant domestically by the end of this month, at which point increases in cases become more likely.
But there are crucial differences between where the U.S. is now and where the U.K. was when its B.1.1.7 surge appeared. The latter occurred during the December holidays, when both seasonal factors and people gathering added accelerant to the variant’s spread. In the U.S., B.1.1.7 is ascending when other factors, like vaccines and the weather, are contributing to keeping the coronavirus at bay.
Experts are watching closely to see how those opposing forces will shake out. But many are dismayed by politicians dismantling the precautions in place to slow the spread of the virus, arguing that holding out a bit longer for greater vaccine coverage could push the country into the relative clear. Even if cases don’t rise but stay flat, that’s still a lot of people getting sick while they await vaccines. Outbreaks in one place also won’t stay there.
“What happens in Texas affects the rest of the nation,” said epidemiologist Camara Phyllis Jones of Morehouse School of Medicine, citing one state that has ended its mask mandate and rolled back other restrictions. “We cannot wall ourselves off.”
Throughout the pandemic, experts have stressed that as important as policy is, individual behavior and choices also greatly influence transmission patterns. But their regular pleas for just a few more months of precautionary behavior are increasingly butting up against a tired public.
During a Thursday hearing before a Senate panel, for example, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky provided an example of how more people were getting back to old routines.
“Last Friday was the busiest travel day since Covid-19 was declared a pandemic in March of 2020, 1.3 million people traveling through our airports,” Walensky said, noting that travelers include people both vaccinated and unvaccinated. “This at a time when we have still 50,000 cases a day.”
Is this really what Michael Stipe had in mind all along? I think he wrote it earlier but the song was recorded in 1987. There's even an ever so subtle shout out to Señor Trumpanzee! Don't pay attention to what your foolish friends and relatives and neighbors do; keep double-masking and keeping idiots out of your face.