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Friday, May 13, 2022

The fifth wave of COVID hits Rhode Island

Will we do anything to stop unnecessary deaths?

By Will Collette

Most people don’t want to hear it and most politicians – certainly not wimpy accidental Gov. Dan McKee or leader of the disloyal opposition and Charlestown state rep Blake “Flip” Filippi - will oppose any restoration of COVID restrictions.

For weeks now, our COVID transmission rates have been going steadily upward. You may have noticed that people you know, friends and family, are reporting they have gotten COVID even though they are fully vaccinated. Look at the RI Health Department chart above to see why so many people you know have gotten COVID despite being vaccinated.

Fortunately, at least within my own circle, these breakthrough cases were relatively mild. Others, especially the unvaccinated or immuno-compromised, were not so lucky.

As Dr. Tony Fauci predicted, we are being hammered with new strains of COVID because COVID, like any living organism, adapts to survive and thrive. It has spawned a new family of BA variants that are much more easily transmitted and can penetrate even the antibody protections you get from being fully vaccinated.

This will continue until we finally decide to take all the necessary measures to stop COVID, such as ensuring that everyone is fully vaccinated and that mask mandates and social distancing are enforced until we kill this thing once and for all.

But we’re not going to do that. For the right-wingers like Flip Filippi, it’s all about “freedom.” The freedom to be stupid and to endanger other people’s lives. For weak-minded officials like McKee, it’s fear of criticism or harm to his beloved small businesses.

The US has more recorded COVID deaths than any other country- over one million. According to a new study by Brown University, reported by National Public Radio, up to 319,000 of America’s million COVID casualties could have been prevented just by being fully vaccinated.

Predictably, there’s a huge Red State/Blue State difference. The highest numbers of preventable deaths happened in Texas and Florida (of course), each losing about 30,000 people unnecessarily. Their crypto-fascist governors Greg Abbott and Ron DerSantis led their people into the Valley of Death to make some right-wing point.

The four states with the highest rate of preventable deaths are predictably all solid Red, led by West Virginia along with Wyoming, Tennessee and Kentucky. Among the lowest rates is Massachusetts along with Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia.

In the next lowest tier, are Rhode Island and most of the rest of the Blue states. Even though our preventable death rate is low, we still had 611 Rhode Islanders die who could have lived on had they been vaccinated. Our total COVID death toll is 1,763.

Thanks to Dan McKee, Rhode Islanders are free to largely ignore COVID while rates rise. Our excellent Health Department Director quit after frequent clashes with McKee and has not been replaced. Mention of COVID has largely dropped off the Health Department’s twitter feed.

But the numbers show that cases are way up. The infection rate is way up. Hospitalizations are up and, sadly, deaths are climbing as well. The true case numbers are actually much higher than those officially recorded because so many people now have home test kits, the results of which are usually not included in the official count.

Nonetheless, look at the incredible spike in the case rate just in the past few weeks (below). I screenshot this chart from the Health Department website just this afternoon.

I am hopeful that our accidental governor will be beaten in the Democratic primary; my pick is our term-limited Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea who has done an excellent job running her department for the last eight years. Then I hope Nellie will trash Trumplican Ashley Kalus.

Kalus ran an unsuccessful COVID testing company and says the politician she most admires is Florida's Ron DerSantis.

But while McKee stays in office, it will be up to Rhode Islanders to make their own choices about how to handle the pandemic and the fifth surge in cases.

You don’t have to wear a mask, but you should. A good N-95 mask gives you great protection. I noted that after McKee ended all mask mandates, very few people wore them. But the ratio of masked to unmasked has gotten higher as cases rise.

Personally, I mask up when going out in public.

And I am fully vaccinated. I trust the vaccine and there are 319,000 dead people that I would cite as proof of that faith. Not to mention friends and relatives who have had breakthrough infections and come out the other end a few days of mild illness.

Obviously, being vaccinated in no guarantee that you won't catch COVID. Nor is it a guarantee you won't land in the hospital or die. Just look at the chart at the beginning of this article. However, being vaccinated improves your odds tremendously from joining the 319,000 unvaccinated dead.

Recently, I got my fourth shot – my second booster. I wasn’t expecting any reaction or side effects since I had handled my previous three shots with little more than a sore injection site. 

This time was different: on the day after the shot, I became pretty ill, wracked with body aches, extreme fatigue, a cough, and overall miserable feeling. I had not felt that sick in years. So I went to bed.

I slept like a corpse and instead of waking up like one, I awoke feeling fine, as if nothing had happened. I was miserable for about 18 hours, but through that time, I kept thinking how bad I’d feel if I actually had COVID.

Despite my unhappy experience with shot #4, I will readily take shot #5 or, hopefully, a new broader-spectrum shot.

Pandemics end when the disease runs out of people to infect. At minimum, we should take every reasonable step to make sure we protect ourselves from infection.