COVID strikes back: Lessons learned?
The pandemic isn't over but you can hear a pin drop from the panic machine. What have we learned? Also: Uber is bad, Twitter is worse.
If your workplace is anything like mine, you’ve noticed COVID-19 has not released the country from its gator-jaws. Smack in the middle of our return-to-normal lives, COVID has re-emerged as the “BA.5” variant. You may get it. If you’re vaccinated, that’s not necessarily going to help. If you’re boosted, you might still get it. In fact, you might get it no matter what precautions you take, short of locking yourself in your basement and bleaching your groceries.
The CDC is keeping track of official counts, which have remained steady at just over 100,000 new cases per day. But for once the Washington Post probably has it right.
The size of that wave is unclear because most people are testing at home or not testing at all. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the past week has reported a little more than 100,000 new cases a day on average. But infectious-disease experts know that wildly underestimates the true number, which may be as many as a million, said Eric Topol, a professor at Scripps Research who closely tracks pandemic trends.
The prevalence of home tests (thank you Joe Biden!) has made COVID tracking and contact tracing really hard for health officials. Employers aren’t required to report people taking sick days because they test positive. Individuals generally aren’t going to report their home test results, even though the kits have an app that allows it. Unless the virus sends someone to the hospital, the government probably won’t know they had it at all.
But we know because we see it. Hardly a week goes by without some well-known figure testing positive. This time it’s Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Half the White House staff has gotten the ‘rona. In April, Speaker Nancy Pelosi got it. And you know what?
It’s no big deal anymore.
People generally aren’t dying at a greater rate than when the pandemic was deemed “over.” Hospitalizations aren’t spiking. People get the coronavirus, feel miserable for a few days, and go back to their lives. Don’t get me wrong here, I don’t wish the execrable disease on anyone, even my worst enemy. I had it before there were vaccines. I had a mild case, and it was awful. I’ve had “long COVID” symptoms for over a year.
But if you’re vaccinated, this variant seems to be less malicious than the original, and in fact as the virus becomes more, uhm, virulent, and resistant to vaccines, it also becomes milder in its effects. This makes sense, since the progression of rapid mutation would remove those variants that can’t get through the vaccines and prior antibodies from previous infections. What we have left is the ones that can, and our bodies, being miracles of self-preservation and immunization, are generally ready to meet them.
COVID is back, and since it’s no longer politically advantageous or possible to create a moral panic, or the “equivalent of war” fighting it, it’s not a big deal. It’s like the flu. People get sick, take a few days to recover, and get back to life. Occasionally someone gets very sick, and for that we do our best to come up with treatments like remdesivir (Veklury) and baricitinib (Olumiant).
What’s more interesting to a cynical mind like mine is that we knew this was coming. We knew it would be like this from the start of the pandemic in 2020. COVID-19 was not a war that any immunology professional ever thought we’d lose. It was an exercise in logistics and messaging. The U.S. saved the world because we can do logistics. We failed at messaging.
We knew there’d be a wave of infections, hospitalizations, and deaths from COVID-19, because we pay people to study and model these things for a living. We pay for careers like Anthony Fauci’s. They were ultra-prepared for the challenge, except we trusted a bunch of administrative state doctor-administrators and grant writers with our messaging, and then the worst person in the history of telling the truth got up at the platform to try to correct them.
Now that we’re here at the end of the line, with vaccines and treatments for COVID-19, only now do we realize our failure and our success. Our success in beating COVID-19 from a pharmaceutical and treatment perspective was basically guaranteed from Day One. It’s our messaging that killed so many that didn’t need to die.
If there’s a lesson to be learned, and we are open to learn it since COVID isn’t a big deal anymore, it’s to put more effort into telling the truth, and stop trying to manipulate. (At least if you’re going to manipulate, hand it over to professionals, like Madison Avenue, or TikTok celebrities. Don’t let doctors malpractice in messaging.)
Lesson learned? Probably not.
Poor Uber, poor Twitter
Uber is awful. They mistreat their drivers, and now it’s become clear that this was part of the plan. The ride-share monster worked with the French government and President Emmanuel Macron to engineer pity by exploiting violence against its own drivers. Follow the links above from WaPo and The Guardian and read the whole sordid tale.
Far from empowering gig workers, Uber created an exploitative, dangerous platform to make money for itself, without having to invest capital in a fleet of vehicles, pay drivers a useful wage, or do the things that companies in the service business do to succeed. I’ve always thought the whole ride-sharing experience and economy was going to be short-lived. It’s like sharecropping where the farmer gets paid nothing but keeps enough of the harvest to not starve, just to plant again the next year. Eventually the farmers’ kids catch on and leave. So the landlord sends heavies to ensure they don’t.
But Twitter is probably worse. They have done some good work in the distant (technologically speaking) past. They created a highly scalable microblogging system that would be decent if they knew how to run it ethically and sanely. But they don’t.
I’ve got to hand it to Elon Musk. He single-handedly killed the company, and believe me, it deserved to die.
"This is a 'code red' situation for Twitter and its Board as now the company will battle Musk in an elongated court battle to recoup the deal and/or the breakup fee of $1 billion at a minimum. We see no other bidders emerging at this time while legal proceedings play out in the courts," Wedbush analyst Dan Ives said in a note to clients following Friday's news.
I don’t know if Musk ever intended to try to “save” Twitter by buying it, or if he knew from the get-go Twitter’s board wouldn’t expose their devotion to the Lovecraftian Necronomicon as their guiding light. Bot possession of a social media platform isn’t a crime, but it should be.
Twitter is a sewer, but without sewers, all the other places from which we flush our effluvia would stink just a bit more. Sewers are necessary, except when you sell one as a lazy river and provide tubes, floaties, and canoes to paddle around in them. I hope Musk gets out scot-free and Twitter breaks itself on legal fees.
Editor’s note: Around here at The Racket News, we don’t have formal editors, but we’re all our own editors. So, I wanted to tell you that David and I both scheduled vacations for the same week, because, well we don’t have editors to tell us not to. He didn’t ask me and I didn’t ask him. We’ll post when we can, if we can. Or not. Or perhaps the NH Curmudgeon will dust off his quill and ink well (or his laptop) and post something. In any case, enjoy your week!
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"I don’t know if Musk ever intended to try to 'save' Twitter by buying it, or if he knew from the get-go Twitter’s board wouldn’t expose their devotion to the Lovecraftian Necronomicon as their guiding light. Bot possession of a social media platform isn’t a crime, but it should be."
The question is which edition they're building company policy upon. Did they use the original Alhazred edition that was completed shortly before the "Mad Arab's" death in Damascus or the 16th century Dee translation? The latter includes some notable errors which have, can, and will (if you're inadvertently poking the Yithians in our far - post-beetle overlords - future) bring misery upon your era and species.
If Jack Dorsey didn't hire a medieval Arabic linguist, odds are pretty good that someone in middle management probably mispronounced a "fhtagn" (one syllable) as "fa-ta-gan" (three syllables) and likely opened themselves up to possession by a body-swapping wizard from the past (another Curwen incident, sigh), which not only Peter Principles your company irreversibly, but sets up your organization as an irresistible lure to other soul-suckers. (The work-life balance stories from Tesla and SpaceX are not great.)
If this is the case, let this be a lesson that weird Classics majors and linguists still have a valuable place in our society and companies. Twitter will become the cautionary tale for that, assuming anyone other than Steve is paying close attention.
Man, y'all picked the wrong day to start vacation...