A couple notable things occurred today. In the county where I live, today was the ending of a mask mandate for helping to prevent spreading of Covid19, which our country is still dealing with in numbers as large as last year this time. You do not need to be a mathematician to figure out, that is not a good thing, and a huge reason if any to continue the mandate until we get down to numbers that are at least 20% of what they currently are (this would have been the equivalent of February or March of 2020.
Businesses had already ripped up the floor stickers and taken down any signage about social distancing, equating the ending of the mask mandate as the “all clear” to go back to the way we behaved in December of 2019, when we never heard of Covid19.
There is no doubt, vaccines have made a huge difference in this pandemic. And we have made the progress faster than ever could have been imagined. At this point, it is a matter of outpacing new cases with vaccine administrations. Consider this analogy, you battle a brush fire, by trying to contain it, not chase it. When you hear that a brush fire is 100% contained, that does not mean it is out, but rather, not expected to spread any further. If we could just hold on a little longer, get our new daily cases below 10,000, while vaccinating, we will have contained this Covid19 “brushfire.”
But we are tired. It has been so long. The fact is, it did not need to be. We spent so much time arguing with each other, denying reality, and too many, made it clear, losses were going to be acceptable.
I am glad not to shake anyone’s hand anymore, or greet anyone with a hug or kiss. I have never liked these traditions and it has nothing to do with being a germaphobe. And crowds, I avoid them like the plague, pun intended with the current situation, so social distancing for me is no big deal. And seriously, was it really that big of a deal to expect people to wash their hands, or for businesses to clean if not better, at least at all?
But the mask thing, that was a line that was going to separate our country. The ironic thing, and again, we study history so that we do not repeat it, the mask issue was a major problem when our country dealt with the last major pandemic back in 1917. People protested masks back then as well, although to be honest, the current mask protest was more linked to politics than it was safety concerns.
I had posted before, the only mask that we were going to be able to use that would guarantee prevention, was an N95 respirator. But it needed to be properly fitted and worn. Which usually takes someone showing you how to do so. But we had a shortage of this equipment, and officials made the mistake of not being up front with the recommendation that masks would do nothing, in hopes of preventing us, the common folk, from buying all the masks, leaving none for first responders who needed it to work with Covid19 patients.
Then we learned that any kind of face covering would help, not prevent, but help. Seriously, what do we sneeze into? A tissue. Perhaps the crook of our elbow. When we cough, what do we cover our mouth with? Or at least we should cover our mouth. This is why the mask was so important. For the lazy slobs who did not cover their orifices when they sneezed or coughed. Of course, the concern included general conversation and anything else expelling air.
The stories that came out why not to wear a mask were down right stupid and selfish, and nothing had to do with nothing. “You get sick from the masks”. No, you don’t. “Because they are not clean and you touch it with your hands which are dirty,” yada yada yada. That falls back on the wash your hands thing. “You breath in your own air, and that makes you pass out.” No, you don’t. Doctors do it all day. Nurses do it all day. Dentists do it all day. The list goes on.
How about the real reasons? “The person I respect the most discouraged wearing a mask.” “This virus isn’t real.” Or my favorite, “I will look silly in it.”
As you can see in my photo, I am not wearing a normal “surgical” boring looking mask. I prefer to “accessorize”, make it less sterile looking. I have several masks with different designs. Some actually end up conversation starters. The one pictured above, recognizes my Native American heritage. I could wear the boring blue surgical mask. I choose not to. And I have not gotten sick once from my mask from Covid19 or any other germ.
For those who were protesting the masks, there was a huge opportunity that was missed. Just like I chose to make my mask a little more easier to look at, as political as the mask situation got, it was an opportunity for mask wearers who object to anything, to put their message on a mask. Be a walking billboard for their cause. We saw this in Congress after the election. We saw it after the murder of George Floyd. The point is, the mask does not have to boring, or ugly to you, it just needs to be worn to be effective.
I guess time will tell, just as the rush to reopen businesses to full capacity, if trusting people to wear the masks on their own, will have the same effect. The fact is, our daily new Covid19 cases are too high not to be impacted by the relaxing of this mitigation effort.
The other big news, which of course I am sure the Anti-vax movement will jump all over, is actually a move that should be hailed for its precaution. The government recommended pausing the use of the Johnson and Johnson, one dose vaccine for Covid19. Of course, the AV movement is going to use this opportunity to smear the entire vaccine program at all costs. They already use an unfortunate tactic taking information that is displayed on the actual CDC web site, a system for reporting side effects of vaccines called VAERS, and swearing it as gospel. But the AV movement is “cherry picking” as they say, only issuing information that they want you to see. The AV movement does not share the disclaimer information how VAERS works, that information supplied is just reported and not necessarily factual or confirmed, and can in fact be biased. So, just shut up anti-vaxxers with this. The vaccines have enough to work through without your misleading claims.
We all know that vaccines were rushed. In fact, they are not even approved. Nor is it likely that they will be approved soon. The vaccines are simply “authorized” for “emergency use.” And let’s face it, we would be dealing with a lot more fatalities without them. Studies that have been completed, allowing vaccines to proceed, were based on healthy people receiving them. Evidently, in the beginning, there were no notable issues, because recipients were healthy. But now, as other sects of our populations are getting vaccinated, that means less healthy people may react differently to the vaccine.
And then there is the difference between the vaccines authorized for emergency use authorization. Moderna and Pfizer are mRNA vaccines with no virus in them, and the J&J vaccine has inactive virus in it (in other words, a vaccine normally made the way other vaccines have been made in the past). With well over a hundred million Americans being vaccinated, we are on the path of getting through this Covid19 crisis.
I will admit that I do not have the exact number of how many have received the J&J vaccine, but it is believed somewhere around seven million. And out of that, six women have developed blood clots. What has not been determined is if the vaccine was the cause for the pause. Here is what has been explained as to why the action was recommended, and there is nothing conspiratorial in it, sorry anti-vaxxers. It is likely only to be days, but experts are waiting to see if anyone else comes forward having experienced this side affect of the clotting syndrome. Many may not have been aware that this was related to the vaccine. Let’s say that many more women in this issue come forward, then the decision is definitely the correct one, the safe one. And if not, this is what does come out of the pause, time and education. It is understood, this clotting “syndrome,” is not like normal clotting requiring the use of heparin. In the case of this “syndrome,” medical experts need to be aware of other therapeutics before treating the patients they see with this syndrome with heparin. And that could make the difference between life and death.
Try to keep it in perspective. No vaccine and no medicine is ever going to be risk free. Some may have more than others. When it comes to blood clots, six women out of seven million so far have developed this issue. That is one in more than a million. And that is not trying to lessen the concern. But when you factor in other causes of blood clots, women who use birth control and smokers all have higher risks of blood clots. And then of course, there is Covid19 itself, with no vaccine, you go from less than 1% blood clot risk to over 16%.
But again, you have to keep things in perspective, especially when it comes to risks. Myself, I am on blood thinners because I have stents in major arteries as well as my double bypass. But I have other issues from my treatments for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma over three decades ago. I have a medicine I take to control my acid reflux, which impacts not just my entire GI tract, but my lungs and heart. I need this medicine, yet, as some of the doctors of my team will argue, that medicine risks interfering with my blood thinner which could result in, you guessed it, blood clots. But without that stomach medicine, the only one that provides me relief, there is no quality of life.
The risk of the clotting from the vaccine, versus the risk of clotting from the virus is a no-brainer. Get the vaccine. I am sure this pause is only temporary. Cases are rising again, and yes, you can argue hospitalizations and deaths are going down. And that is because the vaccines are doing what they are intended, to reduce the severity of the disease to the most vulnerable. Until cases get low enough, the virus is still going to spread. And that is why the race to vaccinate versus the speed of the spread is so important.