Ukraine and related subjects continue to knock Covid off the front pages. Between this, the arrival of spring, and everyone exhausted from two years of at least pretending to comply with some basic public health members (I’m talking to you wearing your mask as some sort of chin strap), the media and society have sort of declared the pandemic over, not with a bang, but with a whimper. It would be nice if it were true but while we may be done with Covid (and around these parts, that happened a long time ago – at least the adherence to basic public health measures), I suspect it is not at all done with us.
Case rates in Europe are shooting back up and in some Asian countries such as South Korea and Hong Kong, case rates and mortality are higher than they are ever been. In our globalized world, this means that we have a chance to shoot back up again ourselves. What’s driving the numbers up overseas? If you look at it, it’s the BA 2 strain of omicron making inroads. The morbidity and mortality statistics are varying wildly from country to country depending on their various strategies over the course of the last two years. Hong Kong’s numbers are incredibly high as a relatively small number of their elder population was vaccinated and most were vaccinated with the Chinese product Sinovac (not available in the USA) which has proved relatively ineffective against omicron. This has led to high mortality rates. In Europe, on the other hand, where the vaccine rates are much higher and elderly are more likely to be vaccinated with one of the mRNA products, case rates are ticking up with the lifting of restrictions and mask mandates, but significant morbidity and mortality is not increasing concurrently. In other words, yes the disease prevalence is increasing but it’s not making people sick enough to need hospitalization or to die.
BA 2 is present in the US but not at very high levels. Will it cause another surge? I suspect there will be a case surge as it multiplies and starts to outcompete earlier strains but, with more than 90% of our elder population with at least one vaccine and more than 80% of them fully vaccinated, it may not make inroads. There are rumbles of a second booster for older and immunocompromised individuals coming down the pike shortly. I think it’s a good idea and even though I’m still a few years away from being officially ‘old’, I’ll get it if and when it’s released. At last count, somewhere between 45% and 55% of the US population was exposed to omicron between last Thanksgiving and now. That means there’s still a large number of omicron naive individuals out there in which BA 2 can catch hold and spread. Then there’s ‘deltacron’ which was generating some scare headlines. It’s a cross which basically has omicron spike proteins grafted on to a delta core. As the spike proteins are what make the virus infectious, it’s no worse than omicron in general. If you want a lot more analysis than this in easily understood terms, I highly recommend reading Katelyn Jetina who writes under the name ‘Your Local Epidemiologist’ She’s easy to find on social media and Substack.. She knows far more about all this than I do.
The mood is better after some sleep this weekend. It’s still not great and someone’s going to get an icepick through the eyeball in the near future if I don’t get some time off this spring. I’m still trying to calendar it in. With all of the various things that I seem to have become responsible for, it looks like late April will be the best time for me to absent myself for a few weeks. I’m taking nominations on things to do. I have several ideas but I’m open to thinking outside the box. Perhaps some beach time is in order. I haven’t had a dip in the ocean in a couple of years.
My long term house guest is kicking my rear and getting me to move ahead on some of my projects that I’ve been quietly tiptoeing around for the last year and a half. Art is being rehung and reframed as necessary. The filing cabinet is starting to fill back up with organized files. Some things that are purely in the way have been purged and demoted to storage. The ostensible reason is thinking about having a party, my first since moving. It’s a milestone birthday in two months. The question is whether to have it here or to have it in a larger venue to allow for more social distancing and air circulation. I wish I could predict what Covid is going to be up to the second week of May. My initial thought is to hire one or more of my pianist friends to play and tell everyone to bring their rep books, have a few drinks and let ‘er rip. It might not be the most dignified of 60th birthdays, but it could be fun. Sort of a Marie’s Crisis like thing. It’s already been dubbed ‘A Night at the Duxbury’ and various plans appear to be afoot that I am not privy to.
I hosted a meeting tonight to begin planning a celebration of life for the irreplaceable and irrepressible Diane McNaron who died so suddenly a few weeks ago. I’ve told the story before about how various threads of life came together nearly twenty years ago to allow her and I and Ellise Pruitt Mayor to create the Politically Incorrect Cabaret. (Don’t worry, it’s not dead yet… It’s been left in my hands. The Ansager, Waffle House Lady and others will return at some time in some form). PIC was very much the start of my performing life in Birmingham and will always hold a very special place in my heart, especially the out of state trips to venues involving a cast of fourteen changing in a hallway, no heat in January and no air conditioning in July, llamas outside the stage door, and pagans hoisting each other up by their piercings. However, it very much needs some new blood and a younger generation to join the merry band so if you’re a twenty or thirty something in the Birmingham theater scene and have an interest in Cabaret forms, political theater, street theater, or just general mayhem, come sit next to me. As the celebration comes together, details will be released.
Do you still have to wear a mask? While the CDC has said that transmission levels are low enough that you don’t have to, I still put mine on indoors in crowded situations and in health care buildings where there might be immunocompromised individuals or those who work or live with immunocompromised individuals. It’s become second nature to me now, like breathing out and breathing in. It doesn’t hurt me to slip it on, I barely notice it, and I’m not ready to write off older or ill persons as being unworthy of consideration. So keep it on you, put it on when appropriate, and keep those hands washed. I’d also still stay out of the mosh pit.