Is COVID under control? No.
After all the world-wide public health interventions (i.e. Stay-at-home orders, Social Distancing, Hygiene Campaigns, Lockdowns, Curfews, Gym, School, Bar and Restaurant closures) we still don’t have the COVID pandemic under control. In fact, after a decline we now see that COVID might be making a comeback. Why is that?
Some would say: “Because not enough people have been vaccinated yet“.
Others would say: “Because not enough people are adhering to guidelines“.
In fact, that is exactly what many government officials are claiming.
Will increased vaccination stop transmissions? No. Yes. Maybe.
What we know so far is that COVID vaccination does seem to lead to a decrease of viral-shedding (ie. the amount of virus that an infected person expulses when coughing or sneezing). But there is no scientific evidence that vaccination stops the transmission in its tracks. In fact, there are theories that increased vaccination forces the virus to mutate so it can remain endemic. Whether that is true or not remains to be seen. Fact is that mask mandates still apply after vaccination. And according to Dr. Fauci this is because of the risk of mutated SARS-CoV-2 variants. And Dr. Fauci’s statement gives me the shivvers… Because the preeminent expert – the world looks to – is basically saying that vaccination is not the silver bullet many want it to be.
Does vaccination decrease mortality? Yes. But.
From the data we can clearly see a decline in mortality among the elderly. The assumption by many is that vaccination alone has led to this decrease. But it’s not that cut-and-dry. This assumption ignores the fact that during the first and second wave many vulnerable elderly people succumbed to the virus. During our research into Influenza (2015-2019) we clearly saw a pattern whereby a year with excess mortality is offset by a subsequent year of under-mortality. A pattern that we also see in nature, known as culling.
The truth is that several factors are in play. And then there are the variants that might be resistant to the current vaccines.
Are people adhering less? Yes. But.
Let’s face it. Humans are inherently social beings. Of course people are adhering less. It’s basic human nature. We are not built for isolation or detention. In fact, humans incur psychological and even physical harm when isolated. Detention, house-arrest or prison sentences are perceived as punishment for exactly this reason. The worst punishment in prison is when an inmate is placed in solitary confinement (isolation). So yes, people are tired of the measures and want to go back to normal. Worst part is: Many people’s livelihood depends on social interaction. Abstaining from Social Interaction (ie. Isolation) has an expiration date. And that date is near.
Herd Mentality. A deadly problem
One argue that we are herd animals. At least we do exhibit herd mentality. Many people, considered conspiracy theorists, believe that there is a global conspiracy going on. One of their arguments is that – as part of a sinister masterplan – leaders are enacting the exact same measures, at the same time. This is, according to them, proof of the conspiracy. First of all, I dislike the label “Conspiracy Theorist” (In Dutch they’re called “Wappies“). The label is derogatory, offensive and inflicts harm. And I believe it to be counterproductive. I am not ashamed to confirm that I interact with many people considered to be Wappies. More often then not they are kind and caring people. They’re just like you and me. They just have a different opinion. A fringe opinion, but an opinion nonetheless. And one that, in my opinion, most likely comes from the fact that they are part of a different herd. Mentality. And this Herd Mentality is – again in my opinion – the same reason why we see governments enact similar measures. Its not a conspiracy.
It’s Herd Mentality. And it’s a deadly problem.
Civil discourse and Awareness are key solutions
As long as there is an endemic lack of ‘Awareness‘ about viral transmission (Influenza and SARS-CoV-2) we won’t tackle this problem. Generally speaking: Increased awareness leads to increased adherence. People are less inclined to ‘follow the rules’ if they don’t understand them. I am hopeful that now, 40 years later, a majority of people understand the principles of HIV transmission and what measures exist and why they exist and why, for example, STD tests and use of condoms are the norm.
If we educate the masses about the science of viral transmission, people’s awareness will increase and infections will decrease
Why ignoring humidity is a bad idea
First off, I am grateful to see the hashtag #CovidisAirborne being used more and more. Seeing Dr. Fauci advocate for portable HEPA filters – a device which aims to purify the air – is equally encouraging. But as stated earlier, I believe awareness is key.
Because of our study “Environmental risk factors of airborne viral transmission: Humidity, Influenza and SARS-CoV-2 in the Netherlands“ we were able to accurately predict the increase of cases, hospitalization and mortality rates in the Netherlands.
Months in advance.
We predicted (mentioning an error margin of 1 week):
- The start of the Second Wave would hit Australia on July 1st 2020.
- Coronavirus ‘Hotspots’ would appear in The Netherlands in the 3rd week September 2020
- The Second Wave would hit The Netherlands in week 44 (End of October) 2020.
- A Steep increase in infections and hospitalization would hit The Netherlands in week 47 (1/2 November) 2020.
- The Netherlands would go into Lock-down in week 48/49 and would remain in Lockdown till the end of March
It also helps explain why Sweden, with little public health interventions and The Netherlands, with stringent public health interventions are following a similar pattern. There differences are not just humidity. Many factors are at play. Such as: Population makeup, Population density, Work situations, Travel behavior, Holidays, Age, BMI, Prevalence, Exposure, Group immunity, Virus Mutations, etc …
The million dollar question is to figure out what the exact role of balance is between measures, weather and other factors. That is something we are currently working on, thanks to the access we have gotten to the Swedish data.
Awareness is key
So yes, I believe portable HEPA filters, Humidifiers, Masking, etc… have an effect.
But the biggest effect will be achieved once the Herd Mentality is changed and #CovidisAirborne remains a trending topic.
Because people understand the science. As we describe in the animation above.
By explaining the science of Humidity, people will understand why COVID is seasonal. All future epidemiological models will take weather influences – such as Humidity – into account. This will make predictions easier and more accurate. And more importantly; more effective measures can be taken, finally halting COVID.