The previous post described two of the worrisome COVID variants, and one more will be mentioned here — the formidable Alpha, or the U.K. variant, otherwise known as B.1.1.7, which is rampant in Britain and has spread to 50 other countries. It mutates like crazy, and what its progeny seem to have in common is the ability to improve their spike protein, which helps them latch on to our cells.
Alpha is at least 50% (and maybe as much as 70%) more transmissible than before. The victims are more than twice as likely to be hospitalized. Journalist Zeynep Tufekci wrote of it,
Compared with previous surges, case-for-unvaccinated-case, this surge has the potential to cause more illness and more deaths, infecting fewer but doing more damage among them. We can also expect to see more younger, unvaccinated people falling sick and dying.
Tufekci also mentions the phrase “exponential growth,” which provides another opportunity to recommend a two-minute animated explainer that will be difficult to unsee. Trevor Bedford, a scientist with a ton of credentials, amassed over 300,000 Twitter followers through relating such facts as,
[I]t’s clear that non-variant viruses have been declining throughout the spring, while variant viruses have been responsible for multiple state-level-epidemics.
The latest crisis is messing with the Olympics and the World Economic Forum and the plans and hopes of millions of individual humans. Remember how some countries initially got a handle on the virus? They have lost their grip, thanks to the variants:
Cases are soaring in Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos for the first time and returning in numbers that haven’t been seen in months in Singapore, Malaysia and Japan.
Taiwan’s defenses worked spectacularly for a while, until they didn’t, and in May the numbers exploded. Some experts blame complacency, while others blame the emphasis on border control while neglecting in-country preventative measures. In any case, the new variants play a role. And then there is Singapore, which…
[…] has seen a sharp jump in cases, prompting the government to order lockdown measures on Sunday for the first time in nearly a year. The reversal marks a serious blow for Singapore, which has vaccinated one-fifth of its population and imposed border controls, deploying so-called safe distancing ambassadors and making a contact tracing app mandatory.
Muddled thoughts prevail
Americans seem prone to a particularly naive and dangerous brand of wishful thinking. It’s as if we expect the virus to give us credit for loving our families and trying to sustain human relationships. But the virus does not care about anything except its own agenda. It wants us to pick it up and carry it to our parents and grandparents and children and best friends. It preempts our finest qualities, our love and loyalty and longing for in-person communication, and turns those traits into weapons that threaten our whole population.
Abhishek Rimal, the Asia Pacific emergency health coordinator at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, sums it up:
The world needs to realize no one is safe until everyone is safe.
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “The Coronavirus Is a Master of Mixing Its Genome, Worrying Scientists,” NYTimes.com, 02/08/21
Source: “The Fourth Surge Is Upon Us. This Time, It’s Different,” Archive.is, 03/30/21
Source: “Legend of the Chessboard,” YouTube.com, 01/11/11
Source: “Trevor Bedford,” Bedford.io, undated
Source: “These parts of Asia beat coronavirus early. Why they’re suddenly in lockdown,” LATimes.com. 05/18/21
Image by Marco Verch/CC BY 2.0