Never let a good mutation go to waste

Give them an inch. These are the wisest words in the history of mankind when describing organized bands of ruling governmental entities.

Give them an inch.

I’m not an anti-masker. I don’t understand those people. Wearing a mask is the faintest token of collective respect and cohesion in these times. They are not intrusive, easy to slip in and out of, and they fog up your glasses horribly. Ultimately, I do not get the sense that my civil liberties are trampled upon by mask ordinances. Despite most right-wing bluster, I have yet to witness any real thuggish paramilitary enforcement (although it seems we’d be in a better place if there was, I hate to say).

Still, I understand their fears.

This is about masks, but it’s about much more. Masks are a symbol and tool of overreaching governmental control of our autonomy and liberty. It’s only a mask today, but call me in a year or two when the government, handed this small morsel of civil intrusion, starts demanding more. And more. Masks are a slippery slope signaling incremental destruction of a free society by bloated bureaucracies drunk with power.

I realize this, but still, I gave them that inch.

I wear my mask willingly. I even wear it in the most innocuous of situations if there is a slight chance of encountering others. I don’t leave home without one. I’m dutiful. It’s the least I can do despite the fact I understand I have suspended all justifiable leeriness of the government-medicine complex.

I’ve been waiting for them to prove me wrong. Only an inch.

Now, courtesy of the impending Biden presidency and the roll out of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, and the timely COVID-19 mutation to have arisen in Europe, the inch has become a kilometer.

I dilly-dallied and plunged my head in the sand for the “greater good” and I fear my government is rewarding my benevolence with a gargantuan dose of Orwellian gratitude.

The NYT story concerns the mutant COVID-19 strain that displays amplified measures of contagiousness and its appearance in Colorado and Southern California. The article ambles along in its steadfast Grey Lady manner, informing and discerning.

A contagious variant of the coronavirus spreading through Britain has left that nation grappling with new lockdowns, curtailed air travel and a surge in infections. Now it has appeared in Colorado and California, threatening to complicate what had seemed a hopeful, if halting, path to recovery from the pandemic.

Subtly resetting the narrative. Bracing.

Scientists do not know how widely the new mutant may have spread in the United States. But the answer to that question will color virtually every aspect of the response: hospital treatment, community lockdowns, school closures and more.

That’s right. Scientists don’t know much about the variant but it doesn’t prevent them from spinning foreboding tales of doom and demise as the groundwork for a greater ask. And it doesn’t stop the usual suspects from boosting the mRNA vaccine’s cred in the face of this variant curve ball. Dr. Anthony Fauci sounded the prototypical hopeful but ambiguous tone, embodying undying faith in the new vaccines.

Speaking with Anthony Fauci in a Facebook Live video, California Gov. Gavin Newsom said one case had been detected Wednesday morning in the southern part of the state. Though the new strain seems to more easily move from one person to another, Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said it doesn’t appear to be resistant to the vaccines that’ve been developed.

“It doesn’t seem to evade the protection that’s afforded by the antibodies that are induced by vaccines,” Fauci said. “Even though you have one part of the virus that’s changed, it’s very likely that the other components of the vaccine-induced response will protect you.”

“The other thing they’ve noted in the UK is that people who have been infected don’t seem to get re-infected by this,” Fauci added. “Which means the immunity that’s given to you [by recovering from the virus] … is protective against this particular strain.”

One must be leery when epidemiological experts wield the word “seem” defensively; it is an indication that they aren’t confident declaring facts. Back to the lab they go, but unwilling to let the vaccine campaign be detoured by this hiccup, they continue to portray a facade of confidence and reliability in the miracle elixir.

In fact, the COVID mutation does not necessarily present roadblocks – wisely and opportunistically retrofitted, it is an opportunity to implement more stringent demands of the populace.

Back to the NYT piece.

The variant’s arrival also makes it all the more imperative that Americans receive vaccinations in great numbers, and more quickly, scientists said. A pathogen that spreads easily is more difficult to contain, and a greater percentage of the population must be inoculated to turn back the pandemic.

Horrifically predictable. Scientists say they have not measured the vaccine’s ability to fend off COVID-19 though most experts believe vaccine immunity will remain, albeit at a slightly diminished level, ie, efficacy of 80%-85%.

But they do not know. Or so they say. Keep in mind, this mutation was discovered in September and the pace of discoveries and research of SARS-2 have been turbocharged since March so it’s difficult to believe scientists are examining the variant for the “first time” in assessing the vaccine’s effects. Coupled with Fauci’s sly adjustment last week of the herd immunity estimates, the narrative points in one clear, unsavory direction.

“We’re still learning how these variants might respond to drugs and other Covid-19 treatments, including monoclonal antibodies and convalescent plasma,” Dr. Henry Walke, the C.D.C.’s incident manager for Covid response, said at the news briefing.

The news ramps up the urgency to get Americans vaccinated because it raises the threshold for so-called herd immunity — the percentage of people who must be inoculated to contain the threat. That threshold may be 90 percent now, versus the 70 percent experts previously estimated.

At least two million Americans must be vaccinated each week to prevent the health care system from buckling even under the current surge, experts estimate, let alone an increase brought on by the new variant.

The moral of the story is to never let a good mutation go to waste. The collective hyperbole and panacea is surely worth another large relinquishment of our personal liberty, no?


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