Sunday Commentary: I’m Angry Now – This Is Unnecessary and Dangerous

FILE PHOTO:  REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

From the start of this pandemic, too many people failed to appreciate the severity of this pandemic.  In a way, it’s the nature of the disease.  After all, if we had a disease as deadly as Ebola with a near 50 percent mortality rate, people would be a lot more respectful of the dangers.

People downplay COVID because most people get fairly mild illness and *only* about one percent will die—and most of them have some sort of pre-existing condition or tend toward the older side of the spectrum.

On the other hand, people should not be sneezing at 600,000 fatalities in the US or the 4.2 million deaths worldwide.  This may not be the 1918 Flu or Black Death, but it could well end up being one of the ten worst pandemics of all time.

The real problem now—as before—is that people are not only being reckless with respect to taking precautions, they are doing so without full information.

Bottom line: people are playing with fire and many are going to get burned.  And even if they think they know COVID, the Delta variant should be a note of caution.  New CDC memos show that Delta infections are not only much more contagious but they are also more severe.

The game may be changing below our feet.  There is some indication that some outbreaks occurred with OUTDOOR gatherings over July 4.

Worse yet—the longer this stuff remains in the population, the more it will mutate. CDC is already warning that the disease is only a few mutations away from rendering all vaccinations useless.  Can we adapt?  Maybe.  But we are chasing the disease right now and probably losing.

Ironies abound.

The very people who have opposed the economic shutdowns and mask regulations are the very people who are not vaccinating and the very people who are the primary cause for the surge of cases from around 14,000 a day at the beginning of July to 77,000 yesterday.

The message here is more complex.  First, vaccines protect but do not prevent.  That means that people who are vaccinated can get COVID and spread COVID.  For the most part they are not getting hospitalized or dying.

Part of the problem here is that people do not understand science and most don’t even understand basics of data analysis 101.

Someone this week blindly posted: “Statewide data analyzed by the Bay Area News Group found five counties, Los Angeles, San Diego, Alameda, Contra Costa, and San Francisco, have both a higher percentage of people who are fully vaccinated than the state average and a higher average daily case rate. Compare that to these five counties: Modoc, Glenn, Lassen, Del Norte, and San Benito, which have below-average vaccination rates and decreasing case rates.”

The quote itself was taken out of context.  The article went on to quote Dr. Phillip Norris who clarified this data “doesn’t mean the vaccine is not working.  He notes, first, the counties referenced with higher vaccination and case rates are more densely populated.”

The commenter never explained why he posted it or what it means.  Nor did he seem to understand that a bivariate analysis of this sort isn’t that helpful.  Why is the COVID rate higher in places with higher density?  Probably because on average each person infected has more potential people to infect.

Let’s look at some other stats which bear this out.  The media is not doing a good job, by the way, of reporting on this.

Ken Dilanian of NBC tweeted an NBC Story.  The headline: “Breakthrough Covid cases: Data shows how many vaccinated Americans have tested positive.”  But below the big headline: “The 125,682 ‘breakthrough’ cases in 38 states represent less than .08 percent of the 164.2 million-plus people fully vaccinated since January.”

This is a classic example of the law of big numbers.  If you have a large population even  small percentage can lead to high numbers.

The numbers bear this out: 125,000 vaccinated people have tested positive for COVID.  On other hand, as Nate Silver tweeted, “At least 35,000,000 unvaccinated Americans have tested positive for Covid.”

According to the July 29 CDC memo, “At current incidence, 35,000 symptomatic infections per week among 162 million vaccinated Americans.”

Bottom line: people who vaccinate are getting infected.  But the vaccine is clearly working.

In Yolo County, the county reported about 17 percent of those who tested positive with COVID are vaccinated.  That’s probably an overstated percentage because, in order to test positive for COVID, you have to test in the first place and one might guess people who vaccinate are probably far more likely to be tested than non-vaccinated people.

CDC warns: “Vaccine breakthrough cases may reduce public confidence in vaccines.”

That is the big danger here.  Confidence.  And when the media emphasizes breakthrough cases without putting into perspective proportionality they are doing everyone a disservice.

But my biggest irk is the people who refuse to be vaccinated altogether.  The irony again is that those refusing to be vaccinated are making it far more likely that we shut down again.  We went from 14,000 to 77,000 cases a day in four weeks.  What happens in the next four weeks?  Are we going to top January’s 200,000 per day totals?  Don’t you think governments are going to go back into shutdown mode?

The New York Times reported this week: “As Virus Cases Rise, Another Contagion Spreads Among the Vaccinated: Anger.”

They write: “Frustrated by the prospect of a new surge, many Americans are blaming the unvaccinated. A tougher stance may backfire, some experts warn.”

Count me in the angry crowd.

The Times reports: “The rising sentiment is contributing to support for more coercive measures. Scientists, business leaders and government officials are calling for vaccine mandates — if not by the federal government, then by local jurisdictions, schools, employers and businesses.”

This teacher captures my view perfectly: “I’ve become angrier as time has gone on.  Now there is a vaccine and a light at the end of the tunnel, and some people are choosing not to walk toward it.  You are making it darker for my family and others like mine by making that choice.”

We have been far too slow on this stuff.  We probably cannot mandate that everyone vaccinate.  But we can require vaccinations for most public accommodations, and most private businesses can require it for entry as well.

Some are warning of a backlash by those against regulations—well, maybe this time I am the backlash.

Those who want to argue that people who have been vaccinated are even getting and spreading the Delta variant – that’s why I spent the first half of this piece going through the data.  Those who want to make that argument simply do not understand how the data work here.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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29 Comments

  1. Ron Glick

    The country is reaping the consequences of 60 years of lying to the American people by the government.

    In my life from Kennedy and Connally  were hit by a single bullet, to peace is at hand in Vietnam, to cutting taxes will pay for itself, to read my lips no new taxes, to I did not have sex with that woman, to weapons of mass destruction, to you can keep your doctor, to Trump won the election our leaders have lied so much and with such frequency that the American people no longer believe anything our government tells us.

    I don’t know how America restores faith in our leadership except by telling the truth as an act of leadership over long periods of time.

    1. Keith Olsen

      Well said Ron.  But it’s not just the government who has lied to us, the press is no longer honest and non partisan and we as a country can’t and don’t trust them either.

       

       

       

    2. Alan Miller

      our leaders have lied so much and with such frequency that the American people no longer believe anything our government tells us.

      Amen, Brother Glick, Amen!  And great examples – of course supplemented by ‘masks aren’t needed’ when the gov’t thought the people couldn’t handle the truth – that the gov’t was afraid of running out of M-95s for medical purposes.  Maybe that worked for five weeks until the truth came up – and from there ever-eroded confidence in what ‘they’ were telling us about the virus ever since.  Lying to the American people is always a bad strategy, and most especially with a pandemic.

  2. Keith Y Echols

     We probably cannot mandate that everyone vaccinate

    The response I hear is: “The government has no right to my body”.  My response is: “Ever hear of the draft”?

    What I don’t get is why insurance companies don’t just drop their (willfully) unvaccinated members or at least say they refuse to cover any Covid related expenses.  Also, as of July 28th, there were no ICU beds available in Yolo County.  Why aren’t unvaccinated who need to be hospitalized the first turned away when ICU beds fill up to another hospital outside of the county and the first kicked out (to another hospital outside of the county)?

    There should probably also be a tax on the willfully unvaccinated to help pay for the expense of the Covid pandemic on the country…..or maybe not a tax but an increase in taxes and a tax break for the vaccinated.

    1. Keith Olsen

      The response I hear is: “The government has no right to my body”. 

      That’s what many women say too, “civil right-the basic human right to control one’s own body”.

       

       

        1. Keith Y Echols

          Should the unvaccinated be painted with a scarlett “C” maybe?

          I’m cool with that as long as it glows in the dark so we can see it at night.  How about a scarlet triangle for delta?

          One not wearing a seat belt is no threat to the greater population, just to themselves.

          No but they’re a threat to the greater good’s hospital resources and finances to fund their willful stupidity.

        2. Keith Olsen

          No but they’re a threat to the greater good’s hospital resources and finances to fund their willful stupidity.

          I can think of many things that would apply.  Those that don’t get their yearly flu shots, rioting, sugary soda drinkers, obese overeaters, etc.  The list is long.  We could have a scarlet letter for almost every letter in the alphabet.  It’s a slippery slope…

          1. David Greenwald

            You’re being absurd. There is nothing led to the magnitude of deaths that COVID has caused so far.

        3. Keith Olsen

          You’re being absurd. There is nothing led to the magnitude of deaths that COVID has caused so far.

          Try to follow the conversation David before you comment.  The other Keith was referring to wearing seat belts, not Covid, thus my reply.  David, try to not be so dismissive.

          This is Keith’s comment that I was relying to:
          One not wearing a seat belt is no threat to the greater population, just to themselves.

          No but they’re a threat to the greater good’s hospital resources and finances to fund their willful stupidity.

      1. Keith Y Echols

        Yeah but there’s not an immediate threat to the greater population from a pregnant woman.  Mandates are made for the greater good. That’s why there’s a seatbelt law.  We don’t just assume all the dunderheads in the population will wear seatbelts.  If we left it as a personal choice, I’m sure there would be plenty of morons that would choose to not wear one.

        1. Keith Olsen

          Yeah but there’s not an immediate threat to the greater population from a pregnant woman.  Mandates are made for the greater good. That’s why there’s a seatbelt law. 

          One not wearing a seat belt is no threat to the greater population, just to themselves.

          1. David Greenwald

            Actually it is. It causes insurance premiums to go up. It creates a risk to other passengers in the car including and especially minors.

  3. Ron Oertel

    I’m Angry Now – This Is Unnecessary and Dangerous

    It usually is unnecessary and dangerous to be angry.

    I’d at least suggest not using profanity.  🙂

  4. Alan Miller

    The very people who have opposed the economic shutdowns and mask regulations are the very people who are not vaccinating and the very people who are the primary cause for the surge of cases

    At least you didn’t say Republicans (see Dunning, & many many others).  [Feel free to substitute ‘conservatives’ for ‘Repubicans’ throughout this narrative.]  This narrative about Republicans being the problem is really misguided, especially here in Davis.  While yes, it’s true by the proportionality numbers state-by-state, using this as a political slam is actually destructive to the cause.

    First, it ignores the many Republicans that have been vaccinated, or that Trump and Sean Hannity, among many examples, are now promoting vaccinations (you can argue past transgressions, yes, real, but I could argue the same of Newsom’s antics and many others).

    Despite the numbers being higher with Republicans, attacking Republicans doesn’t address the issue that huge numbers of both liberals and conservatives are not getting vaccinated.  I know many people who aren’t getting vaccinated, and all I can name are on the liberal side of the political spectrum.  They don’t trust big corporations, big gov’t, big pharma.  They believe in yoga, in vitamins, in a healthy body, in alternate (to Christian) spirituality.  Some refuse to put anything man-made in their bodies.  Some simply have so many allergies they don’t trust putting anything in their bodies.  Some fear the man-made vaccine more than they fear the ‘natural’ virus (which ironically may have been human engineered – then what?).  Some of these beliefs are rooted in what some have come to call ‘conspirituality’.   Google it.

    I know these people.  I hang out with these people.  In many ways I am one of these people.  I haven’t had a flu shot (didn’t even know they existed until a few years ago) or any vaccine in 40 years.  But I studied up on this virus and a few weeks into the lockdown I did a 180° when I realized this was deadly serious, and when not deadly, way too often weird, serious lingering medical issues.  And I knew even if I survived and healthy I could be a vector.  My usual way of looking at this stuff didn’t apply to this virus.  So I locked down, masked up and vaccinated when available.  And yes, good health when available is still a good deterrent – maybe more important individually – but not as a whole for the human race.

    So I understand those who don’t want to get vaccinated and are left leaning folk.  I’m honestly surprised that many many more don’t connect the dots and change their thinking like I quickly did.  But I don’t condemn them because I understand them – I understand the thinking.  I also understand the conservative thinking that leads to the decision not to vaccinate – and oddly I don’t find the two politically-opposite ways of thinking all that different – often rooted in distrust of very large institutions – often just different institutions.  I honestly don’t like having a man-made concoction swimming around in my body, ever.  But I choose to do it rarely, and in this case there was a clear choice to vaccinate when I weighed the risks to myself and to the human race.

    I don’t know that we will ever force-vaccinate, or even can.  But why are we making life so easy for those who choose not to vaccinate?  Why are governments so wimpy about mandating a vaccine passport?  Why is a ‘recent Covid-19 test’ a substitute for vaccination in so many venues?  Why are music tours and other huge gatherings being allowed when Delta is spreading like a virus (because it is one)?  Why aren’t more employers requiring vaccination to work?  Why are insurance companies not rewarding the vaccinated, or terminating the un-vaccinated?  Why are stores — anywhere — but especially in Davis, still allowing anyone, ANYONE, to go inside without a mask?  Why are ‘chin-diapers’ [nose uncovered] put up with AT ALL?  Why does anyone feel sitting inside in a restaurant is safe when people eat without masks?  Why are we allowing people to fly all over the country and world unvaccinated – and why did we allow this throughout the previous peaks of the pandemic?  Why is there still a sorority named Delta Delta Delta?

    A friend of mine recently got Covid-19.  She was fully vaccinated months ago.  She contracted it around June 30 before the warnings about the Delta variant were widespread, and she believes she got it from someone who was also vaccinated.  She had to tell about 60 people she was positive for the virus.  Several of them — all vaccinated — had come down with Covid-19.  Her symptoms were not minor – nor was she hospitalized.  She had major fatigue, lingering cold symptoms for weeks, shortness of breath when exerting herself, and lost her senses of smell and taste.  During the entire year plus of the pandemic, not one other friend has come down with it that I know of (though some people I know peripherally did), but in the last few weeks a couple of vaccinated friends got this thing.

    I’m not trying to say I don’t think the vaccine works when considering  the population as a whole — clearly it does lessen symptoms, deaths and spread.  But in the last few weeks the medical community has clearly been shocked at how this thing is spreading, and clearly the initial .08 numbers we heard a few weeks ago on the rate of spread in the vaccinated community was insanely low and will be adjusted.

    Many have said to me ‘well your friend is lucky, she would have got a much worse case if she wasn’t vaccinated’.  Maybe.  She is mid-40’s, exercises daily, eats well, very healthy – not someone whom the stats would have predicted would get a severe case – so I would be very surprised if the vaccine made any difference in her particular case as she got a ‘pretty darn moderate’ case and the odds are very low she’d get a bad case.

    But again, I’m not trashing the vaccine or saying it doesn’t work — what I’m saying here is this Delta variant is a BEAR.  And the next one may be Godzilla.

    Getting to vaccination mind-think for many or most of the conservatives or the liberals who won’t vaccinate is going to be near impossible.  I know their thinking, and these people are stubborn AF.  In Davis (or Berkeley or SF or . . .), we need to stop calling Wyoming and South Dakota the boogy-man and get the politics out of this, and be real that Republicans are a rare bird in these parts.  We need to get real that the left-leaners who won’t vaccinate are in the tens of millions, and those people are concentrated in communities like Davis.

    Shaming isn’t going to work on the stubborn, it’ll just entrench them.  So how does society go about this?  Some can be convinced, but I’m guessing only when they can’t go to work or fly or go to concerts or get health insurance benefits will many change their mind.  Is US society ready to clamp down?

    From past experience, I’d say no.  So:  we’re doomed.  Doomed to trundle on in Covid-19 purgatory for another year or two or three.

    Yip-F’ing-ee!

  5. Bill Marshall

    I have had to show my vaccination card to go into certain places this past week.

    Supposedly, that wasn’t supposed to be happening… will you share what types of places?

      1. Bill Marshall

        Those I “get”… all ‘specialized’ with ‘special risks’ and controls… no need for specificity… that’s exactly why I asked “types”… I chose the term on purpose…

        We did get our ‘vax cards’, copied, copy laminated, for free @ Office Max… we carry them with ‘travel docs’, but will have to be asked to show, and will question reasons if asked… I do not favor them as SOP… I could well boycott any ‘regular’ business/venue that would “require” it.

        That fact we carry them for travel (rare), is just not to get stranded in an airport, etc.

        Think ‘Treasure of Sierra Madre’… “badges? we need no stinkin’ badges!”

        1. Don Shor

          but will have to be asked to show, and will question reasons if asked… I do not favor them as SOP… I could well boycott any ‘regular’ business/venue that would “require” it.

          This business owner would like to politely say that we are tired of this kind of stuff.

        2. Alan Miller

          I could well boycott any ‘regular’ business/venue that would “require” it.

          I have already boycotted several businesses that weren’t enforcing masks and allowing chin diapers, and likely will avoid when possible for the rest of my days.

  6. Bill Marshall

     Why is a ‘recent Covid-19 test’ a substitute for vaccination in so many venues?

    Damn good reason… with it obvious that some fully vaxxed folk can get the delta variant (and therefore, be a ‘carrier’), a vaxx card is no substitute for a ‘recent Covid-19 test’ … if you want to go ‘conservative’ (as to transmission), or uber-cautious, methinks you should advocate for BOTH criteria…

  7. Chris Griffith

    Just think if you’re homeless and looking for temporary shelter in Hawaii’s capital, expect a visit from a robotic police dog that will scan your retina and save the data forever and if you haven’t been vaccinated robo puppy could give you a shot. 
    I think all cops should have robo puppy in their backseat and when told by health officials they could roam the city for the unvaccinated .

  8. Ron Glick

    “I have had to show my vaccination card to go into certain places this past week.”

    “So far – not going to name specifics – one prison, one court house, one bar for a private party.”

    What did you show to get out?

    Who let the Blog out, who, who?

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