Covid: It ain’t over till it’s over…

…as the endlessly quotable Yogi Berra may or may not have said.

But forget Berra. The World Health Organization, a.k.a. WHO, isn’t as much fun to quote but it knows how to do footnotes, and that makes it more impressive. In its opinion, the pandemic isn’t over. Between the beginning of 2022 and late August, at least a million people around the world died of Covid. 

Or if you want to start counting at the beginning of the pandemic, that’s 6.45 million. Both numbers undercount the damage, but never mind that. Let’s work with what we’ve got.

”We have the tools that can actually prevent these deaths,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead on Covid. “A lot of people are talking about living with COVID. But we need to live with this responsibly. A million deaths this year is not living with COVID. Having 15,000 deaths per week is not living with COVID-19 responsibly.”

In one recent week, more than 5.3 million new cases were reported worldwide, a number that doesn’t include people who registered positive only on a home test. Or who never tested.

“These are huge numbers, and that’s an underestimate,” said Van Kerkhove. “We do see this virus circulating really intensely around the world.”

Irrelevant photo: an orchid

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That brings me to the question of why I keep banging on about Covid. Apologies if I’ve gotten boring–Notes isn’t supposed to be mindless, but it is supposed to be a fun read. The problem is that scientists keep coming up with new information. What I’m saying here is, Blame the scientists. If they weren’t so damn good at this, it wouldn’t end up in your inbox.

And if that isn’t a good enough reason, it’s because it still matters. Living with Covid doesn’t have to mean pretending it’s no danger.

 

Long Covid 

Let’s talk about long Covid. Again. Sorry to keep coming back to it, but not long ago someone challenged me on the extent of the problem (my thanks; it was an interesting discussion) and since long Covid’s hard to define and at least as hard to measure, I didn’t have great statistics to offer. But I have started to see some lately, so let’s play with numbers. They all involve money, since it can be counted, and when you’re dealing with something as hazy as long Covid that’s useful. Besides, as we all know, money matters more than life itself.

So let’s talk money: A report from the US estimates that 4 million people are out of work with long Covid, which could mean $170 billion in lost wages. In a year. The report’s author,  Katie Bach, said, “If this looks like other post-viral illnesses, some people will recover, but there will be this big stock of people who don’t, and it will just continue to grow over time.”

She called it “a shocking number.” 

In mid-2021, the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis estimated that 26% of people with long Covid were out of work or had cut their working hoursAn international survey found that 22% of people with long Covid weren’t working and 45% had cut their hours, and a U.K. survey found 16% had reduced their hours and 20% were on paid sick leave. That was between April and May 2021.

Australia’s treasury reports that the country’s lost 3 million working days to long Covid. Or to put that another way, 31,000 people have missed work every day because of it. 

 

So how many people have long Covid? I’m not sure anybody has a reliable count, but the U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimate that 19% of people who’ve had Covid get long Covid symptoms. Unfortunately, the number’s less helpful number than it sounds like, because long Covid’s symptoms range from relatively mild to completely hair-raising and the duration ranges from weeks to the possibility of a life sentence.  

*

Are we having fun yet?

Evidence is growing that people who’ve had Covid face an increased risk of neurological and psychiatric problems as much as two years after their infection. That’s not the final word on the subject, but it comes from a study that followed 1.28 million cases over two years. It does seem to be a strong hint. 

The good news? Depression and anxiety are generally gone after two months and are no more common after Covid than after other respiratory infections. And kids are at the lowest risk for kids for later complications. 

End of good news.

Adults 64 and under showed an increased risk of brain fog–640 cases per 10,000 people vs 550 cases per. Over 65s? The number went up to 1,540 per compared to 1,230. For dementia (we’re still talking about the over 65s here) it was 450 instead of 330. Psychiatric disorders? That’s 85 instead of 60. 

Is there anything can we do about it? Hell yes. I’m going to petition the courts to lower my age.

Does the risk end after two years? We haven’t had enough time for anyone to find that out. 

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A theory that’s loose on social media holds microclots responsible for long Covid, and some evidence does back that up, but (as one article says) hematologists worry that enthusiasm for the theory has gotten ahead of the data.

Danny Altmann, an immunologist at Imperial College London, said, “We’ve now got little scattered of bits of evidence. We’re all scuttling to try and put it together in some kind of consensus. We’re so far away from that. It’s very unsatisfying.”

But that’s not stopping a few medical groups from offering treatment to remove the clots, and some people with long Covid are desperate enough to try anything, which I can understand. But at least some treatments to get rid of clots risk messing with the blood’s ability to clot, and that (she said, indulging in a mild understatement) would not be a good thing.

 

How Covid’s changing

Its incubation period—the time between when a person gets infected and when they’re shedding enough of the virus to infect other people—is getting shorter, and the shorter that time that period is, the harder it is for vaccines to keep the virus from spreading.  

Yeah, that was news to me too. Measles and rubella have a two-week incubation period, which allows time for a vaccinated person’s immune memory cells to crank out antibodies and keep the person from passing the bug to other people. So vaccines for those diseases stop the spread. In contrast, a Covid vaccine, although it protects the wearer, doesn’t protect the wearer’s friends. Or enemies. 

On the bright  side, the shorter incubation time means people who test positive might not have to isolate themselves for as long.

Every cloud has a silver lining, but the problem with that is that silver linings are too heavy to float. Watch out for falling silver linings.

 

Expired tests

You may (or may not) remember that a while back I wrote about the expiration dates on Covid tests. After they pass those dates, I led you to believe (if and only if you read it, of course), they start to call in sick and miss work. Well, I need to update that. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration set the expiration dates in the early days of the pandemic, on the basis of the limited information that was available at the time, but manufacturers are testing aging tests them and some turn out to be good beyond their expiration dates.

How do you know if yours still good?

“To check whether your test kit is still good beyond the printed expiration date, you can search on the FDA’s “At-Home OTC COVID-19 Diagnostic Tests” website.

“Type in the brand name on the FDA site, and a link will appear showing a list of updated expiration dates.

“You may have to check the lot number on your package. For instance, say you’re trying to look up an iHealth COVID-19 test kit with lot number 222CO20208. Scroll down the document to find your lot number, and you’ll find that the original expiration date of Aug. 7 has been extended to Feb. 7, 2023.”

Apologies.

 

An update on Hafiza Qasimi

In early August, I wrote about Hafiza Qasimi, a woman artist fleeing Afghanistan after the Taliban destroyed her paintings and left her unable to work. The campaign to raise the 10,000 euros she needed to apply for a German visa has reached its goal. This allows her to demonstrate that she can support herself for her first year in the country. (The amount will be raised to 11,208 in January.)

In the meantime, Qasimi has reached Tehran. I have no idea how she did that. In Afghanistan, women aren’t allowed to either travel or leave the country unless they’re with their husband or a male a relative. But she managed it, she’s safe, and she’s been offered a three-month residency at a German art gallery is she can get that visa.

The group supporting her is trying to raise more than the 10,000 euro minimum so that she can afford health insurance and other basics. They’re also working with her on a grant application that would allow her to study at art school.

“This,” they say, “will provide her with the space she needs, as a free woman, to renew and develop her artistic work. We are full of confidence and look forward with Hafiza to the future.”

Her brother, who lives in Germany, will be flying to Tehran to see her for the first time in eight years.

If you want to contribute to the fundraising campaign, any amount will be welcome. And if you don’t (or would love to but can’t), that’s okay. Do what you can where you can and wish her joy in her freedom.

37 thoughts on “Covid: It ain’t over till it’s over…

  1. Well, my school district certainly thinks it’s over. Just back this week, I’ve discovered that 1) there’s no longer a district COVID team, 2) our school nurse is no longer called our school’s COVID Coordinator but rather a Responsible Reporter, 3) they are no longer referring to it as COVID but as an infectious disease, 4) there’s no more COVID pay if you stay home with COVID – it now comes out of your regular sick time, 5) if you test positive and feel ill, they say you should stay home, but they will no longer make you. Good grief. Can I please retire for my own safety?

    Liked by 2 people

  2. While I haven’t really followed all the long Covid news and info I will interject something I have been wondering about recently. I know a few people who had Covid during the worst of it, and now have Covid again, mostly because of some, well let’s just say stupid choices. I would assume this must be the Omicron variant they now have. They are in that older, poor choice-poor health range and I would not doubt at all that this won’t be the last time they get Covid. I might venture to call this a self-imposed form of long Covid. But seriously, I am curious about what science will discover with studies of those who repeatedly get Covid.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I barely dare say aloud that Himself & I have both avoid Covid thus far. He works outdoors and is an anti-social so & so, and I’m cautious. Nevertheless, I feel fortunate. My daughter’s family have had it three times, but with young children, I imagine it’s a struggle to avoid it.

    What both you & Deb say about allergies is interesting as I also suffer from hay fever, although only seasonally. Nevertheless, there’s been a large amount of anti-histamines in my systems at all times.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve started to have allergies in recent years and am now grateful. We’ve avoided Covid as well, so far. I’m cautious. My partner isn’t–it’s just one of those deep-rooted things–but so far so good. It helps that we don’t have schoolkids in the house and live at the back of beyond.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I didn’t comment on the big numbers you quoted about current Covid. I knew they had to be uncomfortable reading, but there’s been a grand job going on with keeping them out of the public eye. Even knowing, I was a bit stunned at their size. We’re about to go away for a few days holiday here in the UK, and I’m feeling conflict. Living “with” it seems to be boiling down to just pretending it’s just flu. As I already use a cpap machine nightly, even “just” flu wouldn’t make the best of bedfellows for me. I’ll hope that anti-histamine is doing more than just controlling my runny eyes and nose.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I hear you. I’ve got a reading coming up this month at the North Cornwall Book Festival and I don’t see how I can read masked, although I’d damn well like to. Fingers crossed for us both–and for everyone else, while we’re at it.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Just today the booster that supposedly works against the newer variants was approved in the US.
    https://www.statnews.com/2022/09/01/your-questions-on-the-new-covid-vaccine-boosters-answered/
    Thanks for the good info – Some of my circle have been cautious all along and still got it (some kids were involved in contact) There are fewer and fewer masks when i do my weekly shopping, but I till try to stay masked up. The doctor’s office is still requiring masking by patients and staff, so I took that as a sign
    I will send prayers/good thoughts/ whatever is accepted to Travel Architect and fellow educators. And extend your hopes for a pro-active union !

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Perhaps we will never know how many deaths and how much illness was caused by Covid, caused by the fear of Covid, caused by Government responses to Covid, caused by underlying disease made worse by Covid, etc, etc.

    I’m old school and because I have lived through other pandemics, I wasn’t particularly fussed by this one. In January 2022 hubby and I put our masks in our pockets, drove out of Canada and into the USA and didn’t look back. We were triple vaxxed, got Covid within the first week, had a cough, and were tired for a few weeks. By the time we got back to Canada in May, most of the people we know had also had Covid and we all went back to living maskless lives with no Government Covid restrictions.

    Some might think we are tempting fate, but we believe our doctor who says that the vaccine and the natural immunity from having had the disease are the best form of protection against severe illness – for us. Our choice is informed and no more stupid than anyone elses choice on how they want to live in a Covid world!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad you’re vaxxed and okay. The immunity acquired from having had Covid is good but the time it lasts seems to be getting shorter. What I’d love to know, and the answer isn’t in yet, is how much protection the vaccines offer against long Covid.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. In the final analysis, it really doesn’t matter what the statistics are for duration of immunity, etc, etc. Each and every one of us have a unique immune system – which is why my hubby’s 92 year old step mom sailed through Covid with fewer symptoms, of shorter duration, than he did! And our Covid was considered very mild.

    Not to diminish the effects of long covid, researchers have been looking at past flu and pneumonia cases where symptoms have lasted long after the acute respiratory illness is over. This suggests that patients have been suffering from ‘long flu’ and ‘long pneumonia’ at a similar rate as long covid, but the medical community had not put a diagnostic label on it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m not sure about the similar rates, but yes, this has given researchers a new perspective on the aftereffects of previous viral illnesses and they shed new light on the current one. But at least from my perspective, that doesn’t diminish the problems the current one poses.

      Like

    • Thanks, Aletha. I do hope we get to a point where if it’s not over (and I can’t see “over” happening, frankly–I think we missed that boat) we at least find a way to live with it safely. Preferably soon, because I don’t know about you but I’m not getting any younger.

      Liked by 1 person

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