The COVID Event Horizon

How many COVID infections will you have in your lifetime? There's probably a limit.

On May 24, 2022, the CDC, of all places, announced that more than 1 in 5 COVID cases results in Long COVID. This momentous news landed with the overwhelming silence of space trash floating out of Earth orbit. The next day, a study in Nature Medicine revealed that vaccines only reduce the risk of Long COVID by 15%. Not very much. [...]

"If we manage it the way that we manage it now, then most people will get infected with it at least a couple of times a year," virologist at the Scripps Research Institute in San Diego, Kristian Andersen, says in the New York Times. Doctors are now "seeing kids with [their] 3rd infection in [a] 4 month period. The shortest time between reinfection recorded by the CDC was 23 days.

All of which begs the question: how many SARS-CoV-2 infections can an organism sustain? People don't get the flu 2 or 3 times a year, and if they did that would probably also be bad. But getting a thing that kills your T cells seems not infinitely scalable, right? [...]

COVID degrades your immune system for the next time you encounter the virus, and also makes you more susceptible to infections overall. (Population-level immune dysfunction may go a ways to explaining the emergence of the sudden new characters in our viral cinematic universe -- Monkeypox, Pediatric Hepatitis, et al.) COVID also increases your risk of developing diabetes by 59%, which is then a contributing risk factor for severe COVID, including death. [...]

COVID isn't just an infection, it's an underlying medical condition. By next year we'll have reached the point where people have started having 5 or more reinfections. What happens at 15? Or 25? What is the reinfection event horizon? Like have we tested in animals or something? What is the maximum upper limit of infection above which no mouse survives?

I'm guessing it's not infinity.

Tool's Maynard James Keenan had COVID-19 for the fourth time.

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15 Responses:

  1. bibulb says:

    The vocalist, who’s also a member of Puscifer and A Perfect Circle, has settled in to the realization that it just might be the consequence of being in the profession he’s in. “I mean, when you’re in a room full of thousands of people, it’s being passed around,” he remarked. “You get into a tube and you fly 10 hours in a contained environment, you’re gonna get it. If somebody has it and you’re gonna get it, you can get it. That’s just the nature of what it is now. We need to embrace that and stop freaking the fuck out.”

    Proof again that being talented doesn't mean you're wise, or intelligent, or anything like that.

    "Embrace that", my fucking ass.

    • narf says:

      Right? I read that and my immediate reaction was, "Why haven't the rest of your band or crew caught it that many times?"

      • jwz says:

        Maybe they have but they're not famous enough for interviews?

        • narf says:

          Yeah, I didn't think of that.

          I'm fully on your side about vaccination and masking and can see how in a bar/club environment, odds are much higher that one will catch covid and it would be much easier to spread. (I read your post about not requiring vaccination to enter DNA Lounge anymore and that just sucks....)

          At the same time, I work in a hospital and have yet to hear of a patient getting covid FOUR TIMES! It just sounds like he may be engaged in more high-risk activities than just performing at concerts.

          • Glaurung says:

            An e-friend of mine has caught it at least 3 times, twice in 2020 before there was a vaccine available and everyone was being as careful as they could. She is a scholar, not an entertainer.  The virus is ridiculously  contagious, and some people's immune systems are less good at suppressing infection than others.  

  2. Rinze says:

    And yet here we are in Quebec: removing masks from everywhere. Next ones to go, public transport, starting on June 18th.

    Apparently the management of this is now a "personal choice", while the management of the society-wide effects will fall upon all of us. I see some problems there.

    I still have N95 masks and will keep using them in the next months or years.

    • Elusis says:

      Apparently the management of this is now a "personal choice", while the management of the society-wide effects will fall upon all of us. I see some problems there.

      See also capitalism's perennial favorite: privatize profits, socialize losses.

  3. bmj says:

    Question: why, several years into this pandemic, do we still only have essentially two vaccine options in the United States?  The initial mRNA vaccine was out in, what, a year?  Has COVID vaccine research stalled?  Or are Pfizer and Moderna exerting significant muscle over the drug development and approval process, since the government is essentially printing money and handing it over to those companies?

    NB: I work in the clinical trials domain, so I fully understand that drug development is hard, slow, and expensive.  But, I can't help but wonder about Pfizer basically dictating health care in the States (for instance, suggesting that maybe everyone should have a Pfizer booster every month).

    • Sean says:

      It seems to me that the drug manufacturers are going to have an increasingly hard time finding valid test subjects, aren't they?  There's the antivax crowd, who won't take anything; and the rest of us have had one of the other vaxxes.  Wouldn't it require someone to voluntarily take only the new vax?

      • bmj says:

        Maybe?  I would think that at this point, the drug development and trial process should account for other vaccines in the field?  I mean, I hope that we can do better at wrangling COVID than just a monthly vaccine that simply lowers the possibility of hospitalization and death?

        Perhaps the protocol could limit the participants to those who have received only an initial shot and a booster?

      • Glaurung says:

        In the less wealthy 2/3 of the world, many countries have vaccinated less than 20% of the population.  Still plenty of poors available for pharma to experiment on.  

    • Biff Tannen says:

      I think the FDA just approved Novovax, which is different from the mRNA vaccines:

    • Jon H says:

      There was Johnson & Johnson's non-mRNA vax but their contract factory screwed up and contaminated a bunch of doses, and there were problems with blood clotting.

      And the conventional non-mRNA Novavax is getting close to approval.

  4. deater says:

    My family all had covid last month and somehow I escaped, mostly by masking up and living in a spare room while caring for them.  The vector was one of the kids at elementary school.  Was impressed I didn't catch it from the University I work at because they were being completely irresponsible during a major outbreak as the semester ended.

    Only suddenly I ended up with Covid myself this week.  And it's been miserable.  And best I can tell one of the kids brought it home from school *again* despite them having it just a month ago.  I'm not sure how to even defend against this short of pulling the kids out of school.

  5. CSL3 says:
    The evidence is clear (via Jessica Wildfire on Medium): "It's Time for Us to Learn to Live with Meat-Eating Dinosaurs"

    Fortunately, there’s some cause for optimism as well, because fewer of those patients are dying immediately.

    This is giving some health officials reason to believe that the dinosaurs have become milder. They seem to be attacking less vital organs, taking smaller bites out of their prey, and in some cases even leaving them alive so their cries lure in more victims. Although this development has led some famous alarmists like Dr. Ian Malcolm and Dr. Alan Grant to speculate that carnivorous dinosaurs are learning how to manipulate us, it’s really too soon to say either way.

    Most of her stuff is pretty straightforward (COVID worries, parenthood, misogyny in her field of education, and how much Emerald Space Karen sucks), but this one has her doing a sorta Neo-Liberal Jon Snow thing.

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