The XBB.1.5 variant (Kraken) has finally hit the mainstream media cycle. While it might feel like a sudden development for the general public, waiting for them to catch on has felt like an eternity for the sentinel crowd.
The more we learn about Kraken, the more disturbing it gets. A recent piece in USA Today says the tools we’ve been relying on won’t protect us as well anymore. One of the doctors interviewed said, “It’s crazy infectious… All the things that have protected you for the past couple of years, I don’t think are going to protect you against this new crop of variants.” The piece says one-way masking probably won’t work if everyone around you is going around bare-faced. Of course, it doesn’t specify what kind of mask. Also, we’ve known that even N95 masks only provide so much protection if you’re spending time in crowded indoor spaces.
Maybe you’ve seen this chart:
These figures only approximate how long you can spend around an unmasked person before they infect you. They were pre-Omicron.
We’re well beyond that now.
So even if you’re wearing an N95 mask, you probably shouldn’t be hanging out with unmasked people (outdoors or indoors). They never protected us for longer than an hour or so if we were the lone masker. Now, we don’t even know if that’s true anymore. As the reports on Kraken indicate, the virus has gotten better at binding to our cells. That means it takes fewer particles to cause an infection. Takeaway: We really needed everyone to wear high-quality masks.
I know, not happening…
When our friends and family sneer and say “masks don’t work,” they’re missing the point. No, wearing little surgical masks at restaurants and parties didn’t work. Taking them off all the time to eat and drink in public didn’t work, either. So in a sense, the critics are right. Masks don’t work, because our public health institutions never explained how to wear them effectively.
When you think about it, no wonder nobody trusts masks now. People were assuming their cloth and surgical masks were going to protect them all day, when the truth was so complicated it needed a chart.
Unfortunately, westerners botched this pandemic response so badly that Covid has become one of the most contagious viruses we know about. Worse, a new warning from the FDA states that the crucial treatments Evusheld and bebtelovimab don’t work against Kraken. They also seriously undermine our boosters. That’s what the data says, regardless of what any optimist tells you. Nobody wants to admit this out loud, but we’re back to square one.
We’re actually worse off than we were in 2020. We’re coming off a horrendous wave of flu and RSV, with a little strep thrown in. Our hospitals are severely understaffed and burned out to the point of apathy. We’re seeing shortages of basic medicines and antibiotics. This time, even China can’t help us. Since they’ve lifted restrictions, Covid has been crippling factories. There’s so much chaos there now, it’s hard to get a good read on what kinds of disruptions to expect. Experts are definitely bracing for an impact on supply chains, even medical ones, given that China makes a large portion of our medicines, drugs, and equipment.
Our governments spent the last two years telling us we had the tools we needed to return to normal. For a little while, we did.
We abused them.
We snubbed mask-wearing until even N95s only provide temporary protection if you’re the only one wearing them. Most schools and businesses refused to upgrade their ventilation or install air purifiers. Political messaging focused almost completely on mRNA vaccines and boosters, when the science was clear that we were chasing dragon variants. Now, our treatments are failing. Pharmacists are refusing to fill Paxlovid prescriptions. In Canada, they’re moving Covid patients into rooms with patients who don’t have Covid.
That’s how slammed they are.
The establishment media is already turning their noses up at “draconian” lockdowns from early 2020. Well, we know lockdowns aren’t coming anytime soon, and we know what’s going to come from that.
In my first post on Kraken, I said we would be staying home until we knew more. Well, now we know more, and it’s bad. It’s starting to feel like a true doomsday scenario. I’m not sure where we’re going to end up by the end of this month. I think it’s going to shock a lot of people.
Some of us have been predicting this moment for a year now.
Deep down, we knew what would happen if everyone continued to let this virus spread while abandoning public health. This is not a moment of validation or vindication. If anything, the Cassandras and Sentinels are wishing harder than ever that we were wrong about everything.
It’s not totally hopeless.
Personally, I’m adding the Flo Mask Pro to my toolkit. We’ll continue to use HEPA filters at our home. As for public life, that’s firmly off the menu at this point. That includes school, sadly. As Wesley Ely says, “This is not going away. We need you to say to yourself, ‘How valuable is my health?’”
Get boosted. Wear an N95 mask or better. It beats nothing. Keep interactions with the unmasked to a minimum. It’s not worth it.
Use networks like Covid Meetups to live your life.
That’s where we are now. We’re back to basics until people begin to realize how badly they messed up and start to behave differently. We need access to better vaccines. We need new treatments. More importantly, the public needs to understand that “living with Covid” doesn’t mean ignoring diseases. It doesn’t mean someone going to work or sending a kid to school when they’re infected.
Our tools are only as good as our ability to use them.
Our governments don’t have all the tools.
They had the tools.
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A decade ago I realized that the fundamental changes required in hopes of avoiding civilizational collapse were never going to be purely voluntarily pursued. What I wondered since was how much pain and destructive consequences would have to be experienced before the cultural flow began to abandon the mindset that birthed our escalating and intersecting crises.
And as things keep getting worse, my thoughts are: "we aren't going to stop until it all falls apart, are we?"
What a wild time to be alive.
"The stain of eugenics & industrialism in the fields of education, psychology, statistics, anthropology, economics is baked into basic presuppositions.
Now what? The tower of research based on that research is premised upon efficiency, individualism, productivity. Not vitality." -Nora Bateson
A truly sobering read. I work for a hospital and it's depressing how few healthcare workers are taking COVID as seriously as they did when the pandemic first started