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Needless Covid Deaths and Hospitalizations and Other Updates

(The End of the Pandemic?)

Part Two

By Gary F. Zeolla

 

This two-part article is continued from:
Needless Covid Deaths and Hospitalizations and Other Updates (The End of the Pandemic?) Part One.

 

Omicron Is Not Mild

 

      The mention near the end of Part One of Omicron and a possible lower CFR leads to the question of if Omicron is milder than Delta. Conservative commentators were already declaring Omicron to be mild just a couple of weeks after it was first identified in late November 2021. The reason they were saying Omicron is mild was due to a study that came out of South Africa, where Omicron originated. That study found that though Omicron was highly contagious, even more so than Delta, they were not seeing a massive increase in hospitalizations and deaths.

    However, South Africa is not like the USA for the following four reasons:

1.       Greater percentage of people previously infected with Covid

2.       Younger population

3.       Thinner population

4.       In the summer, without A/C, so more time spent outside

 

      The first point means the rate of natural immunity in South Africa is greater than in the USA. The second is relevant, as increasing age is the greatest risk factor for experiencing serious consequences from a Covid infection. The third is important, as increasing bodyweight is the second greatest risk factor for experiencing serious consequences from a Covid infection. I address each of these points throughout my Coronavirus writings and will return to each shortly. For the risk from being overweight, see my newly updated article, Obesity: The Reason COVID Has Hit the USA So Hard.

      Point 4 is important, as the virus does not spreads as easily outside as inside, so those infected in South Africa probably were infected with a lower viral low, leading to a less severe illness. I address this concept in my three-part article Does a Mask Protect the Wearer from the Coronavirus?

      There were also three studies out of the United Kingdom. The first found that Omicron was not milder than Delta (CNN. It’s not). But the other two found that it was milder (Trib Live/ AP. Omicron). Conservatives latched onto the latter two and ignored the first one, while liberals did the reverse. But again, there are many differences between the UK and the USA, with again, the UK having a younger and thinner population than the USA.

 

      There was also a study out of Hong Klong that also found Omicron to be milder than Delta. But conservatives ignored the following: 

      Benjamin Cowling, professor at the School of Public Health at the University of Hong Kong, told CNBC on Monday [12/20/21] that data thus far indicates that the omicron variant causes around the same disease severity as delta and other previous variants in unvaccinated patients or those who have never been infected.

      “If you have been vaccinated, if you have had an infection before, you have got some protection, particularly against severe disease, and that means that omicron in reality looks milder. It looks like a milder infection because of the immunity that we have built up, not because the virus is particularly different in terms of its natural innate severity,” he said (NCBC. Some)

 

There was another study out of Scotland, but it also had problems:

      A separate study out of Scotland, by scientists at the University of Edinburgh and other experts, suggested the risk of hospitalization was two-thirds less with omicron than delta. But that study pointed out that the nearly 24,000 omicron cases in Scotland were predominantly among younger adults ages 20 to 39. Younger people are much less likely to develop severe cases of covid-19….

      The findings have not yet been reviewed by other experts, the gold standard in scientific research….

      Matthew Binnicker, director of clinical virology at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., said that in the Scottish study, the percentage of younger people was almost twice as high for the omicron group compared with the delta group, and that “could have biased the conclusions to less severe outcomes caused by omicron” (Trib Live/ AP. Omicron).

 

      Despite all of these limitations of these studies, as time went on, many news outlets, especially conservative ones, began to unquestionably declare Omicron is milder, with some conservative commentators saying it gives you the equivalent of the symptoms of the common cold, nothing more. That is once again conservative commentators downplaying the seriousness of the pandemic, possibly leading to yet more needless deaths.

      First off, hospitalizations always lag behind cases, and deaths always lag behind hospitalizations. It can take weeks for people to die from Covid, especially if they are in a hospital on a ventilator. Conservative commentators should have known these facts by now. But they were already declaring we were seeing a spike in cases without a spike in hospitalizations and deaths as 2021 was ending.

      However, doctors and nurses were already saying what they are now experiencing feels the same as the beginning of the four previous Covid surges. Those observations again come from CBS Evening News. Moreover, CNN’s Covid tracker on January 3, 2022 indicated the seven-day average from a week ago for cases was up 103% and hospitalizations were already up 31%, but deaths were down 9%. But I would bet that in a week or so, hospitalizations will be up even more, and deaths will also be up.

 

      All of that means Omicron is not equivalent to the common cold:

      People typically recover from a common cold in seven to 10 days, and the infection generally does not require medical attention, the Mayo Clinic says on its website. Omicron, on the other hand, can cause more serious illness, according to Dr. Daniel Culver, chair of the Department of Pulmonary Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic.

      “The common cold typically causes mild, self-limited symptoms whereas omicron, like other COVID variants, can result in serious or fatal illness,” Culver said via email.

      As evidence, he pointed to crowded intensive care units in the U.S. and new admissions to hospitals due to the virus (USA Today. Fact).

 

      In addition, we know Omicron is just as infectious as measles, which is the most infectious virus we know. With the great number of people being infected, it is inevitable we will see a surge in hospitalizations and deaths, just as we did with the four previous surges, even if Omicron is milder. That is because inevitably many at high risk, which again are the elderly and those who are overweight, will get infected.

 

      “It’s important to emphasize that if omicron has a much higher transmission rate compared to delta, the absolute number of people requiring hospitalization might still increase, despite less severe disease in most cases” (Binnicker from a previous quote).

 

      “When you have a larger number of people getting infected, the total amount of hospitalizations is going to be more. That’s just simple math,” [Anthony] Fauci told CNBC (Reuters. ‘Tidal’).

 

      Omicron is spreading rapidly in countries with high levels of population immunity, but it is unclear if this is due to the virus’ ability to evade immunity, its inherent increased transmissibility or a combination of both, the WHO said in an update….

      “There are still limited data on the clinical severity of Omicron,” the WHO said. “More data are needed to understand the severity profile and how severity is impacted by vaccination and pre-existing immunity.” …

      “Hospitalizations in the UK and South Africa continue to rise, and given rapidly increasing case counts, it is possible that many healthcare systems may become quickly overwhelmed.” (Reuters. Omicron cases).

    

      Finally, even with mild cases, the risk of “long covid” is always present:

      Covid-19 often saddles people with months of lingering health problems, and patients who survive the first month without going to the hospital still face an almost 60% higher risk of death, according to a study Thursday [4/22/21] that backs up many experts’ fears about “long Covid.” …

      Many coronavirus patients seem to recover from the virus within a few weeks, but researchers are increasingly worried Covid-19 can leave people with long-term health effects, a problem often known as “long Covid.” Patients who were hospitalized often face lingering symptoms months after they’re discharged, and even people who initially dealt with mild symptoms can end up with months of stubborn health problems (Forbes. Danger).

                       

Natural Versus Vaccine Immunity Revisited

 

      I previously addressed the issue of natural immunity in various articles, that being immunity acquired via a Covid infection, and how it compares to vaccine immunity. Here, I will say, natural immunity does not appear to be protective against infection by omicron. But it might lessen the severity of the infection, as already noted. Then again, there is the following from December 22, 2021.

 

      The U.S. has now had its first reported Omicron variant-related death: a Covid-19 coronavirus reinfection in a man who was unvaccinated against Covid-19.

      According to a Harris County Public Health (HCPH) report the man was between 50 and 60 years of age. He had underlying health conditions that put him at higher risk for severe Covid-19. It’s not clear why the man had not gotten vaccinated or whether he thought that his previous severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection somehow offered him enough protection. Regardless, whatever “natural immunity” he may have had from the first infection apparently wasn’t enough to fend off the Omicron variant of the SARS-CoV-2 the second time around…

      This death in Harris County, Texas, certainly won’t be the U.S.’s last and only Omicron-related death (Forbes. First).

 

      The last sentence is sadly true. In fact, we probably already have had many Omicron deaths. But only 3% of positive tests undergo genetic sequencing to determine the variant, so many cases, hospitalizations, and deaths from Omicron have most certainly already been missed.

 

      In any case, the main problem with natural immunity is it is highly variable:

      The struggle with “natural immunity” is that everyone is different, [Dr. David] Priest said. “How old you are, what other health problems you have, what medications you take, and frankly, how big a dose of COVID you got when you were infected. Some people will get infected and have very mild symptoms, and they tend to have milder immune responses and their protection probably doesn’t last very long” (Nova Health).

 

      About 90% of people develop some number of protective antibodies after a COVID-19 infection, according to the CDC. But how high those levels climb appears to be all over the map. Studies show peak antibody concentrations can vary as much as 200-fold, or 2,000%.

      Where you fall within that very large range will depend on your age and how sick you became from your COVID-19 infection. It also depends on whether you have an underlying health condition or take a medication that blunts immune function (Web MD. Infected).

 

      What we do know is the vaccines protect against severe illness, even from Omicron, and more so if one receives a booster.

 

      Preliminary data suggests that omicron not only spreads at a rate two to three times faster than the delta variant, but also, may be more likely to cause infections among vaccinated people. Despite this, vaccines and additional booster shot protection still appears to dramatically reduce the risk of severe illness (ABC News. Breakthrough).

 

      In addition, my previous recommendation for those who previously had Covid to get one dose of one of the mRNA vaccines is proving to be correct:

 

      Recent studies revealed that seropositive persons have a heightened antibody response after the first, but not the second, dose of an mRNA vaccine, suggesting that a single dose is sufficient (CDC. Predictors).

 

Moreover:
    Data from multiple studies indicate that the currently approved or authorized COVID-19 vaccines can be given safely to people with evidence of a prior SARS-CoV-2 infection. Current evidence suggests that the risk of SARS-CoV-2 reinfection is low after a previous infection but may increase with time due to waning immunity. Among individuals infected with SARS-CoV-2, substantial heterogeneity exists in their immune response. Conversely, the immune response following COVID-19 vaccination is more reliable, consistent, and predictable. A primary vaccination series decreases the risk of future infections in people with prior SARS-CoV-2 infection. Numerous immunologic studies have consistently shown that vaccination of individuals who were previously infected enhances their immune response, and growing epidemiologic evidence indicates that vaccination following infection further reduces the risk of subsequent infection, including in the setting of increased circulation of more infectious variants (CCD. Interim).

 

Booster Shot Thoughts

 

      In my Statistical article, I recommend the Moderna vaccine for one’s booster shot. But when I got mine on December 10th, I got the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine, aka the Janssen vaccine. My reason for doing so was two-fold.

      First off, I had a significant reaction to my second Pfizer shots due to my multiple chemical sensitivities, not due to anything inherent in the vaccine. I know that, as I had a similar reaction to my second shingles shot. The Moderna vaccine is very similar to the Pfizer vaccine, so I feared I would have an even greater reaction with it being my third shot. But the J&J vaccine is completely different from the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, so I got it. That worked, in that the only side effects I had were a sore arm and some fatigue that lasted just a day.

      Second. I just happened to hear about a study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) on NBC Radio News the day before I was scheduled to get my booster. Interesting, when I was researching boosters for my Statistical article, I came across an appeal from the NIH for people who had gotten two Pfizer shots to get the J&J as a booster, in order to study the results. That was in July 2021. This NBC report was the results of that study.

      The report said those who got a J&J booster as compared to a third Pfizer shot had longer lasting immunity. Since that study began in July and this was now December, that meant the effects lasted at least five months. That is important, as Israel is now testing giving a fourth Pfizer shot four months after the third, as they say immunity is waning from the booster. Some think that will happen here in the USA as well. But Israel is only looking at antibody levels, but T-cell immunity is still strong even months later.

 

      So far, most of the studies looking at the effectiveness of vaccines against Omicron have focused on neutralizing antibodies, which latch on to the virus and prevent it from entering and infecting cells. Blood test results from fully vaccinated people show Omicron has learned to escape neutralization; a booster dose might restore that protection.

      Immune system T cells, which destroy infected cells, also appear still to be able to recognize the variant. Many experts believe this second line of defense will prevent hospitalizations and deaths (Reuters. Omicron rewrites).

 

      As such, I doubt a fourth shot will become common here. If it does, there is no way I will get another shot four months after my third, and I will not recommend my dad do so either. The reason is simple—he and I would probably get just as sick from a fourth shot as from Omicron, given our previous vaccines. However, I will be open to another booster shot when I get my annual flu shot come autumn. The same with my dad, but only if we can get something different. As I explained previously, as Covid becomes endemic, the booster should change just as the annual flu shot changes to accommodate the changing virus.

 

      In any case, later, another study showed the benefits of a J&J booster against Omicron: 

      Two doses of Johnson & Johnson’s covid-19 vaccine slashed hospitalizations caused by the omicron variant in South Africa by up to 85%, a critical finding since the shot is being increasingly relied upon across the continent, researchers said. …

      The results are the first evidence that a second dose of the J&J shot given six to nine months after an initial injection is effective against severe infection caused by omicron, the investigators said in the study, posted on medRxiv.org (Trib Live/ Bloomberg News. Researchers).

 

      However, the CDC has soured on the J&J vaccine due to the risk of blood clots. But that risk is tiny, with just 57 cases and nine deaths after 16 million doses. And it mainly affects women from 30-49 years old (CBS News. CDC). If you are in that category, you might want to avoid it. But for the rest of us, it is probably perfectly safe. But as always, check with your doctor first.

 

      But whatever you do, do get a booster shot when you are eligible: 

      Dr. Jonathan Baktari, a pulmonary care physician and chief executive of e7Health, said at this point people should think of the vaccines as a three-shot series.

      “I no longer call it a booster — it’s definitely a three-shot series,” he said, noting he believes covid vaccines will go the way of flu vaccines in that people will need updated versions each season.

      “I think we just have to kind of get over ‘did you get a booster?’ It should be more like, ‘did you finish your three-shot series?’” he said (Trib Live. Experts).

 

      Finally, the date of my booster shot is important. I timed it so that I would have the full effects of it before my family’s Christmas Day gathering two weeks later. That has been the stated time period it takes for the full effects of a Covid vaccine to take effect since the vaccines first rolled out (Mashable. Why).

      That is important, as some antivaxxers complain that the CDC counts infections as happening among those “not fully vaccinated” if someone gets infected within that two-week time frame after being vaccinated, while claiming people are more likely to get infected during those two weeks.

      What the antivaxxers are missing is many let their guard down after they get vaccinated but before those two weeks are up, so that opens them up to getting infected (Atlantic. You’re). That is why I said in my Vaccinated article that I was more cautious during the five weeks from my first Pfizer shot to two weeks after my second shot than I was at any previous time during the pandemic, as I did not want to experience both the side effects of a vaccine and the symptoms of Covid. I was also very cautious during the two weeks after my booster shot. Remember that when you get vaccinated and/ or boosted.

 

More Needless Deaths to Come
And the Number of Lives that Could Have Been Saved

 

      In my two-part article Revised Coronavirus Numbers, posted on May 30, 2020, I predicted that when all was said and done, we would see one million Covid deaths in the USA. With having just passed 825,000, and predictions of 44,000 more in just the next month, we most certainly will hit that horrid one million mark sometime in 2022. But once again, most of those 175,000 deaths to come will be needless deaths.

      I predict that once again the vast majority of those coming deaths will be among the unvaccinated. Using the same 90% as before for the percentage of those deaths that will be among the unvaccinated, but assuming that without Covid antivaxxers’ misinformation, not only would the unvaccinated get vaccinated but also boosted, as that is now the standard recommendation, then the vaccines would be 95% effective against death, that means of those of 175,000 deaths, 149,625 lives could be saved with vaccination.

      Add that number to my previous needless deaths number of 191,575, and you have 341,200 of that 1,000,000 number that will have died needlessly due to not receiving the vaccines or over one-third of the total number, all due to the populated Covid misinformation.

      It gets even worse than that. Out of the remaining 658,800 deaths, probably at least half of those lives could have been saved if the authorities had followed my various recommendations. I base that estimate on the statistics and evidence I have cited previously in my Coronavirus writings.

      Those recommendations would include giving hydroxychlotoquine + zinc to everyone who tests positive, or at least to everyone at high risk of serious consequences from a Covid infection, encouraging the overweight to lose weight, handing out vitamin D supplements among high-risk groups for low vitamin status (e.g., communities of color), and quick use of other therapeutics as needed, such as monoclonal antibodies and ivermectin.

     The mention of vitamin D is because you can add low vitamin D levels to being elderly and overweight as Covid risk factors. It is in fact the third greatest risk factor. That is a particular problem among people of color, as the darker a person’s skin the less efficient it is at converting sunlight to vitamin D. I address this point in my two-part article, Supplements to Reduce the Risk of Covid-19.

      The lack of timely use of therapeutics like monoclonal antibodies and the disparaging of potentially safe and effective treatments like hydroxychlotoquine and ivermectin has been the scourge of the USA’s Covid response. Many people have suffered and died needlessly due to not receiving such treatments and in a timely manner. That has mainly been due to misinformation from the left about these safe and effective treatments. As a result, just as many have died needlessly due to misinformation by the left as due to misinformation by the right.

 

      The “original sin” of the pandemic is suppressing early outpatient treatment. The U.S. should have “released the strategic national stockpile of hydroxychloroquine” and promoted ivermectin and other inexpensive drugs that are used in combination to take out the “evasive beasts” early in viral infection, he said.

      These treatments have been discredited through “fake studies” intended to “distort the playing field” toward expensive patent medications and vaccines, he [Yale School of Public Health epidemiologist Harvey Risch] said.,,,

      “It [the FDA] has no systematic data about hydroxychloroquine use in outpatients because it blocked that usage in March of 2020. “This is a fraud” that has “biased the entire world” against a drug with a better 50-year safety profile than Tylenol or aspirin, Risch said (Just the News. Top).

 

      However, those who were able to attain such therapeutics quickly after infection were saved much suffering and possibly death. That mainly occurred in red states, while those in blue states suffered needlessly, unable to attain such treatments, at least in a timely manner.

      Much more suffering could have been prevented if my other steps were also taken. If they had been, and if my estimate that the remaining Covid deaths could have been cut in half by all of these measures, then the USA would only see about 329,400 Covid deaths or about one-third of my predicted final 1,000,000 number. That is heartbreaking and inexcusable.

 

Conclusion/ The End of the Pandemic?

 

      The Spanish flu ended when the virus mutated into a variant that was very contagious but very mild. As a result, most all of the world’s population became infected, but few suffered and died. Many are now saying that Omicron is that variant of Covid that will bring an end to this pandemic.

      They are half correct. Omicron is so infectious that most everyone will get infected and that could very well end this pandemic. And those with vaccine or natural immunity or who are able to attain timely use of therapeutics, they very well could experience only mild illnesses. However, for those without natural or vaccine immunity and who cannot attain timely use of therapeutics, their cases could potentially not be mild at all but in fact serious and even deadly. As such, in the coming weeks, we will see much suffering and death.

      But the current surge will end soon. And sometime in 2022, we will reach that coveted herd immunity that I have been talking about since the start of the pandemic. However, we were lied to back then when it was said we only needed 70% of the population to be immune, either via infection or vaccination. If that were true, we would have already reached herd immunity, and the pandemic would already be over. But as it is, we really need over 90%. The authorities did not want to tell us that number back then, as they felt it would be too discouraging. And maybe it would have been, but I would have preferred to have been told the truth, as I repeated that fake 70% number.

      However, once we reach herd immunity, Covid will not go away. As I reported previously, it will become endemic, always with us, and those without natural or vaccine immunity will remain at risk for serious illness or even death for many years to come, unless they can get timely use of therapeutics. That now need to be the focus.

 

      One possible future many experts see: In the post-pandemic period, the virus causes colds for some and more serious illness for others, depending on their overall health, vaccine status and prior infections. Mutations will continue and might eventually require boosters every so often that are updated to better match new variants (Trib Live/ AP. How).

 

      The upshot is, get vaccinated and boosted when eligible, so that you do not have to worry about what is to come. But if you still chose not to do so, then plan ahead as to what you will do when you get infected, as sooner or later you will. Know where to get hydroxychlotoquine, ivermectin, monoclonal antibodies, and/ or one of the newer treatments from Pfizer or Merck that I discussed in my Statistical article. And take vitamin D and zinc.

 

      Dr. Jonathan Baktari, a pulmonary care physician and chief executive of e7Health, said that when it comes to people who are unvaccinated, there are those who are high risk and those who are low risk. He said people should move away from the idea that unvaccinated people can avoid the virus if they take the right steps.

      “I think people have to come to terms that they are going to get covid-19 sooner or later,” he said. “I think the only concept is how well prepared you will be when you get it and how well prepared your immune system will be when you get it” (Trib Live. Experts).

 

      Finally, along with vaccination, if you want to reduce your risk not just from Covid but of many other health maladies, follow a healthy lifestyle. That has been my message all along. In fact, the subtitle to my Revised Coronavirus Numbers article was, Healthy Habits are Your Best Defense. That remains true today, and it will remain true for all time to come.

 

See for updates to this and a previous article, see:
Coronavirus General Commentaries: January 2022 and
Coronavirus News Articles Commentaries: January 2022.

 

References:

See Needless Covid Deaths and Hospitalizations and Other Updates (The End of the Pandemic?) Part References.

 

Needless Covid Deaths and Hospitalizations and Other Updates (The End of the Pandemic?) Part Two. Copyright 2022 by Gary F. Zeolla (www.Zeolla.org).

 


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The above article was posted on this website January 5, 2022.
It was last updated January 11, 2022.

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