log: final (hopefully)

벌레 일지 WORMDATE: 16,471,940(+118,504): 834(-16): 21,354(+130 )(0.13%)

On Monday, South Korea lifted all virus related restrictions with the exception of the mask mandate. No curfews, no size limits. The disease level of COVID has been downgraded to the level of cholera and tuberculosis. Hospitals are returning to regular medical function and the president has thanked medical workers for their service. This will, hopefully, be the last 벌레 일지. Hopefully. I remember how badly the last return to normal went so . . .

All and all though, if this is it, I have to say, I feel very lucky to have rode this nightmare out in South Korea. That’s not to say the response has been perfect. In a lot of ways, it could have been better. But, overall, I think the country has done well. We did get hit hard by Delta and then Omicron – one of which fucked with the vaccines and the other, which fucked with vaccines and also spread too fast for Trace, test, and treat to keep up with. Some bad luck.

very early days

The longer this thing dragged on, the less effective the interventions became. Some of that is probably due to uncharted waters. In the early days, South Korea had a lot of experience with SARS and MERS and a playbook to deal with these sorts of things. But, as it wore on, that playbook, which was geared towards elimination, started to get a bit obsolete. Like we did get it down to zero cases in 2020 (I think) but fat lot of fucking good that’s going to do when so much of the world was determined to do nothing at all. Well, that’s being generous. A lot of the world did less that nothing. In some cases, nothing might have been better. Too often leaders just lied, did exactly the wrong thing on purpose, and deliberately, belligerently squandered just about every chance to fix the situation as a matter of policy.

Not that I’m bitter. But I am.

So we now have a much worse version of the flu floating around and that’s just how it is now. At some point, we had a chance to eliminate this thing. That ship has sailed. We’re stuck with a new disease. This COVID thing is endemic.

That word gets tossed around a lot. Often it’s used to mean something like ‘better than pandemic.’ But endemic doesn’t mean a disease is mild or even under control. It just means that you can’t get rid of the fucker. Malaria and AIDS are also endemic. COVID being endemic is not a triumph. It never should have been a goal. It’s a huge fuck up.

But it is what it is. And it’s where we are.

very early days

So where are we? I’d say in about the same situation as before. With a disease, you have 3 big factors: host, virus, and environment.

The host has been toughened up through the vaccines and immunity. The virus remains a bit of a fucking wildcard, spreading through humans and animal reservoirs, and still very capable of some very scary mutations — any one for which might render the toughening of the host moot, and toss us back to square one, but more tired, fucked up, and in worse shape than before. Our best chance at dealing with this situation is about the same as it always has been. We need to modify the environment.

What exactly that means changes but, in general, our environment has to become less hospitable to contagious respiratory infections.

That means some relatively simple things like cleaning and ventilation. It also means some social measures. Allowing remote work, reducing class sizes, and generally better funding of social programs. Better healthcare, elder care, and more rights for the vulnerable and the disabled. There also needs to be better and more sick time. Sick time needs to be expanded, paid, and encouraged. Workers should also have health and safety committees that operate outside of management and have real authority. Workers should be able to shut workplaces down at the blow of a whistle. Fuckery from bosses needs to be limited.

On the level of prevention, I think the WHO needs much better funding and a more robust surveillance network. We also need to reduce and better regulate the human nature interface –particularly in farming–and pull back a bit from the wild world while making the tame world more sustainable and capable of running without so much extraction and exploitation. Zoonotic diseases are no joke. And as long as we keep pressing hard into the wild, more of these things are coming. Worse ones. Bleed through your eyes ones.

To my mind, all of these things were good ideas before COVID and remain good ideas now. With or without a pandemic, they’d make for a better society. The resistance to most of them from bosses who make a buck off low taxes, bad regulations, and inequality is to be expected. I cannot, for the life of me, understand why anyone else would object.

The world is pretty shit. A better one is possible. Like, not for anyone currently alive. It will all worse for us until the day we die. That’s how it will be no matter what we do. As shit as these last few years have been, this is still ‘the good old days.’ It’s all going to get much worse than we think much sooner than we expect. But that’s no reason avoid start fixing things. If anything, it’s a reason to start fixing things. I mean, seems to me, you want it to be ‘gets worse before it gets better’ situation instead of a ‘gets worse before it gets even worse’ situation’ but what the fuck do I know. Improvement is possible. It always has been and always will be. At least, until it just totally isn’t. And I don’t think it requires millions of deaths to see that improvement is also needed. If anything, I think those deaths make it all more difficult. But this is the hand we’re dealt so we just have to play it, I guess.

2 thoughts on “log: final (hopefully)

  1. The WHO should get better funding? I remember quite well how, at a time when all Asian countries were adamant of the importance of wearing masks, and distributed free masks throughout the population…. the WHO were very busy discouraging Western people (who had no masks) from wearing so much as a scarf or a handkerchief around their mouths, even though this too would have greatly limited the contagion; telling the population that this would in fact only lull them into a false sense of security and therefore they should stick to washing their hands. We will never know how many people needlessly died because of this willful misinformation, and of course they will never be prosecuted for this mass murder.
    I can only guess they wanted to make sure that any masks would go exclusively to health care professionals. Once masks became plentiful they just miraculously changed their minds and decided that wearing masks was essential after all…
    I will never forget how, in a moment of crisis, the WHO revealed itself not as an organization for world health but rather a union for doctors who protects them at the expense of the general population. Let them fund themselves and their little union that has consciously betrayed the patients they were sworn to serve.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I disagree with your characterization of the WHO. I do agree that mistakes were made but I think a lot of these errors were pretty understandable.

      At the time, the science on masks was a long way from conclusive. Now, I don’t remember the WHO taking a strong anti-mask stance so much as stating that the science was inconclusive and more heavily advising other measures that were better supported by studies. Something like handwashing was pretty solid advice at the time considering that’s often how these diseases are spread. Early on, surfaces were believed to be a major vector. There were studies supporting that idea.

      I don’t think the WHO’s advice about masks or emphasis on handwashing was particularly controversial or badly intentioned. Nor do I think their change of opinion was necessarily sinister. When better information emerged, the guidance was updated. (I find the CDC’s screwups on this much more disturbing – they seem to make errors on this front way more often and way later than they should.) And I also don’t think the response in East Asia can simply be boiled down to masking. I can clearly remember that while this city was ghost-towned, all mass gatherings shut down, subway schedules altered, churches and temples closed, so on and so forth, trace, test, and treat already launched, and a severe mask shortage going on (there was mask rationing), North America was still having huge sporting events, big parties, and no testing, no tracing, and very little treatment. Were masks important? Sure. But they were not the only difference. I’m not sure they were the most important one either. Important, yes. But there was ALOT of other things happening too.

      A bigger error from the WHO, I think, was that they seemed to take the early Chinese government statements at face value. Some of this was because they lacked a decent surveillance apparatus in China. (I’m not sure of this but I believe it was because Trump had yanked funding and there wasn’t many American doctors present.)

      On the other hand, I think the WHO’s COVAX program was a great idea and needed much better support and, if it had of been supported, we would be in much better shape now than what we are.

      We can disagree on these things. That’s fine. I, for example, think the CDC has been a total clusterfuck. But, even so, I still think a functioning and well funded CDC is needed. Same for the WHO. Diseases are international and I think that requires a well funded, well overseen, and functional international medical body to deal with them. Can it be improved? Absolutely.

      But I think getting rid of it would be a disaster.


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