Pandemic Update

Over the last few days, I have thought of at least six posts I might write on the pandemic and started three of them, now trashed by events. I am going to write this one straight through and get it posted before something else happens.

The rapid spread of Omicron and its different characteristics from Delta have changed the game, not to mention that we have viruses in circulation with different characteristics. There is a lot we don’t know yet about Omicron and probably won’t for some weeks.

There is also far too much misinformation, disinformation, and wishful thinking circulating on social media. Please don’t retweet people you don’t know or add your non-expert takes to the din. Please.

The CDC released guidance on recovery and going back to work. Every official decision right now is the result of combining not enough data with public health guidelines with expected political and emotional pushback and professional best judgment. I have given up second-guessing. This thread and the one embedded in it indicate why.

It can’t be said enough times that back in June 2021, things were looking up because of the vaccines, and that was when the Republican Party ramped up its hardline push in favor of death and disease. Yes, Delta showed up too, but in a country where public health was uniformly valued, it would have had less of an effect.

I’ve come to look at the pandemic in terms of getting transmission down, and I think that’s still a good frame. The only way we will get back to anything resembling “normal” is to get the transmission down. That’s going to take a while, although what we see of Omicron’s characteristics, it’s possible we could have a peak through January and then be in a much better position by March.

We don’t have enough tests.

We’re not thinking enough about long Covid. More about this later.

Nor are we thinking enough about vaccinating the world. More about this too.

The good thing is that we know what we need to do: Get vaccinated and boosted, mask up around other people, distance as much as possible, avoid large numbers of people indoors.

Stay safe, y’all, and keep the noise down.

Cross-posted to Lawyers, Guns & Money

PSA – How To Find N95 Masks

If you, like me, are puzzled by the wide variety of mask manufacturers you’ve never heard of and have also heard that not all masks being sold as N95s actually are of that quality, here’s some reliable help.

The CDC has a list of approved mask manufacturers.

Project N95 has evaluated a large number of manufacturers and masks and has aids to find the mask that’s best for you. You can order masks through them.

Cross-posted to Lawyers, Guns and Money

Well, This Is A Nonstarter

Russia has released a text of a proposed treaty with NATO for security assurances in Europe. It’s short. It’s also not going to happen. The short version is that Vladimir Putin, as he has been saying, wants a sphere of influence in which smaller countries are vassals of the Russian Empire and other major powers agree to stay out.

Russia has been massing troops around Ukraine in a threatening way while claiming that nothing abnormal is happening. Putin has made a few speeches lately that are consistent with this morning’s text. The question is why he feels an urgency to make this happen now.

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How Much Longer?

With so many people still contracting covid, filling up the hospitals, the fourth wave now, and vaccinations too, we must be getting to a point where there will be no more people to get sick, right?

I’ve had that intuition, but I know it’s mixed with my desire for the pandemic to be over, so I ran some numbers.

From my latest spreadsheet calculations on November 29, I get a figure of about 133 million Americans susceptible to the virus. This is going to be a very approximate calculation, so don’t worry about those three weeks.

There are other inaccuracies in that number, including that I assumed a that 20% of vaccinations have gone to people who have already had the virus. I recently saw a more reliable estimate of 25%. There are also imponderables, like how many have become susceptible because of waning immunity from infection or vaccine and how many, idiosyncratically, haven’t mounted an immune reaction to the vaccine. Then there’s the degree to which Omicron can escape previous immunity. All that makes the 133 million figure larger and the times longer.

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It’s Not Easy To Get Back To The JCPOA

Between April and June of this year, Iran’s talks with the P5+1 (US, UK, France, Russia, China, and Germany with the EU as well) progressed to a point where an agreement on reinstating the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA, Iran nuclear deal) was in sight. Then Iran had an election and had to reorganize under a new government. Last week that government came back to the talks.

Participants in the talks have been admirably restrained in their comments on the Iranian proposals, and no specifics are available, but reports are that Iran’s proposals retained all the concessions made by other parties while eliminating all concessions made by Iran. Agreement among the P5+1 has been remarkable that Iran overplayed its hand. Talks restarted yesterday (December 9) with a perhaps more restrained Iran.

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Will Russia Invade Ukraine?

Nobody knows. But Russia has been deploying troops around its border with Ukraine, particularly around the Donbas, the area where Russia has been carrying on a small war since late 2014. Earlier that year, Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula, part of Ukraine.

The latest buildup, according to military experts, looks like it could be in preparation for a major invasion of Ukraine. But why? A great deal of speculation is possible on the basis of official Russian statements and history. It’s hard not to be snarky about some of this – Vladimir Putin seems to live in a land all his own, part pre-1905, part World War II, part nuclear age. Living in a land of his own, however, doesn’t mean that he can’t precipitate a war, so I’ll avoid snark.

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