COVID is not behind us – it’s still sending children to the ER

“Americans have declared the unofficial end of the pandemic,” writes Robert Pearl, MD for Forbes. “Most people are no longer willing to mask up, keep their kids out of school, or avoid spending time with family and friends…. Americans are giving up on Covid-19, which policy experts say whether or not they think they should.

Everywhere, you say? Someone forgot to tell this to the preschool son of my dear friend and colleague, a 4 year old who presented with a viciously spiked fever over the weekend. As with nearly 4 million children in the United States, my colleague’s child is susceptible to seizures if his temperature rises too high. When the seizure set in at this time, he became unresponsive and had to be rushed to the ER, which luckily had room for him. As medical staff struggled to bring down his fever, the diagnosis came in: COVID-19.

But COVID is more, right? And kids are supposed to be safe, right? They still just having a runny nose! Right?

You really can’t peddle the “this is all behind us” bullshit to my co-worker with her son in the ER this weekend, or to my other co-worker whose toddler contracted the virus in February and had to sit still all night listening as their child struggled to breathe.

COVID is not behind us. It is right in front of us and all around us, and the most vulnerable among us are paying the price for our wholesale and repetitive national inability to act when proper action could have blocked this seemingly eternal calamity.

The sick and dying are the price we pay because we seem to value fucking arguments more than we can tolerate solutions. Vaccines became fodder for profiteers who convinced too many people that the medicine contained microchips. Little more than bandage-level technology, masks were shunned across swaths of the country until the dead piled a million bodies high… and even more than that, if researchers from the City University of New York School of Public Health be right:

The US is now in its fourth biggest Covid surge, according to official case counts – but experts believe the actual current rate is much higher. America is averaging around 94,000 new cases each day and hospitalizations have been rising since April, though they remain well below previous peaks.

But Covid cases could be underestimated by a factor of 30, an initial investigation into the outbreak in New York indicates. “It would appear that the official number of cases is underestimating the true burden of infection by about 30 timeswhich is a huge surprise,” said Denis Nash, study author and distinguished professor of epidemiology at the City University of New York School of Public Health.

Although the study focused on New York, these findings may be true in the rest of the country, Nash said. In fact, New Yorkers probably have better access to testing than most countries, which means the undercount could be even worse elsewhere. “It is very worrying. To me, that means our ability to really understand and get ahead of the virus is undermined,” Nash said.

(Emphasis added)

It’s not just COVID now either; every other shoe we’ve also been warned about is now falling after people have spent the last two years postponing medically necessary treatments because hospitals have been slammed with COVID patients. That, and the relentless mental and emotional pressure that millions of people are still feeling despite it all being “over”, is creating a whole new care crisis across the country. “Dozens of health systems say they are dealing with a record volume of emergency departments, sicker patients, a worsening mental health crisis and a workforce still under siege,” reports The Boston Globe.

It’s only June, and the warmer weather has proven in previous years to be a decently effective barrier against mass infection…but as the bard went to great lengths to warn us, “the lease of summer has too little time.” Right now, infection rates are rising despite the positive weather, largely because of what Katelyn Jetelina has double “The Battle of Omicron.” In short, three variants of the virus are vying for the title of most infectious, and if this crisis persists in the fall, we could witness yet another explosion of infections. Deadline reports:

Estimates published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [on May 31] indicate that the share of cases linked to the Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 variants has increased by 79% over the past week. This means that while the more transmissible BA.2.12.1 Omicron subvariant became officially dominant in the US last week, it is already being pushed back by newcomers BA.4 and BA.5. The result would appear to be overlapping waves of Omicron.

While BA.2.12.1 has gained an edge by being more transmissible than BA.2 before it, the two newer variants would make inroads at least in part because of their abilities to re-infect themselves…. If true, this means that newer variants have a much larger population that they can potentially access through breakthrough infections, where previous variants like BA.2.12.1 produced far fewer breakthrough infections.

As one of the many millions who will likely spend the end of my life in a defensive squat due to COVID, it would be good to believe that the country will finally decide to slay this beast. Our scientific ingenuity combined with deliberate intent has thrown polio and smallpox onto the garbage heap of history, so why not this?

Well for overtures there is money to be made and political office to be gained by convincing people that this is all a cruel charade perpetrated by dark forces which can somehow be explained by a YouTube video made in Steve Bannon’s basement. Enough people have swallowed the snake oil in the name of party/Trumpian loyalty to make any mass effort against COVID an exercise in futility.

So here we are in the continuing aftermath of “done”, listening to our children struggling to breathe, watching the seizures render them numb, waiting for an age-appropriate vaccine that will almost certainly prove vulnerable to a variant. It’s the new “normal” we’re being asked to swallow, and it’s a constant astonishment.

I used to think we were better than that. I’ve never been so wrong in my life.

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