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December 10 – The End of the Beginning

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Day 325: Shakespeare gets vaccinated, while corruption and incompetence darken the horizon, but stars are shining light to guide us through the dark winter night.

Day 325. What can I say that I haven’t said already before? While record numbers of vulnerable people are dying in highly developed countries, developing countries are using repurposed and safe medicines to fare much better. The level of obtuseness and fascination with the new shiny vaccine when masks, Vitamin D, and basic NPIs would be very effective shows a callousness and lack of empathy that hurts my heart. Everyone is an expert now, so many people have stopped listening to each other. Fools protest measures in the streets, blissfully unaware they are plunging their countries into a decade of recession, precisely when we need that wiggle room to save the planet. Everywhere conservatives hold power, regulations and mask guidance is absent, and cases skyrocket, yet there is no standardized guidance for Vitamin D fortification despite excellent studies and results. So much needless suffering. Trump is staging his’ stoopid coup,’ and no one cares, but it’s still craven and treasonous and makes me feel sick. I feel dejected, so I am tuning out the noise. There is noise everywhere. I ordered Cyberpunk 2077 Deluxe Edition and hope it will arrive soon. Maybe I can spend the winter in 2077 and emerge to read the summary of how we survived. It’s good to dream. 

I bought elf ears from my online shop, for no reason at all other than to laugh when I took a picture of me wearing elf ears. Let’s call it self care.

Sometimes I just want to laugh.

My mom had a birthday this week. For her, a big birthday as she became eligible for senior citizen benefits. She had won two tickets to a safe (masks indoors, hopefully well ventilated) and distanced music event and had booked a nice room at an inn near the show. Despite some risks, it sounded like a big deal, and I was happy for her. Then came the announcement that due to community spread on the Island, which has been largely untouched and in a sort of “vigilant but basically open” situation. I take some pride in having successfully influenced that public policy, for I think it was my CTV/iChongqing diary that had impressed my uncle, Dr. Victor Wood. He reiterated some of my strongest points in his letters to Canadian media, the same letters I got to my mom who forwarded them to the education minister she knew for PEI, who passed them on to the health minister and premier of the province on the day they were deciding on what health and safety measures to take and influenced them to take the most robust measures of any Canadian province. But due to tired citizens and the relative safety of neighboring Atlantic provinces for a while, they grew their bubble to regions nearby. They were too slow to close it, and the current thinking is young people had too much fun, partied unsafely in Halifax or Moncton and brought it back, under the radar, where it spread: three young women in one restaurant, five of their friends, another young boy in a high school that was unconnected to them. So they have locked down again, and her lovely birthday was canceled. We chatted, she’s ok, but it was disappointing. When we need everyone to work together, it feels like some people have too much fun without safety or moderation and ruin the ability of any of us to blow off even a little steam in a safe way. When the candy bowl in unattended, greedy hands will grab it all, and perhaps this is the result of unchecked capitalism and its reiteration that we should not work together, that we are all on our own, because, like Rutger Bregman, star of Davos, says, I do believe we are all basically good, until we learn to be selfish and greedy.

 “The man who as anticipated the coming of troubles takes away their power when they arrive.” – Seneca. Despite surging numbers around the world, there is good news. The FDA authorizes over-the-counter home COVID test, finally. Actually, Europe seems to have gotten a bit of a handle on their summer outbreak. The USA wants to be #1 with a bullet. I feel like I’m losing it on social media. I know what a cranky old man sounds like now. These bubble idiots supporting (disgraced unlicensed BBQ pandemic spreader) Canadian Adam Skelly at protests in Toronto where women are getting assaulted “in the name of freedom” but take offense with my claim they’re why I “left the West to rot” — yeah, I feel bad about it later. But like children, they are going around knocking things off shelves that will take years to put back, fix or replace, and they will be shocked, but by then, it’s too late. Let’s look at lives lost: a country like China, with strict gov control, reported 90,000 cases for 1.5 billion people in a very dense setting. Around 5,000 deaths. Lockdowns and masks worked. The economy took a dip but bounced back. Schools reopened safely. Not many businesses closed. Only two months of lockdown meant not so much mental health damage, not so many ODs/drunk deaths, very minimal lasting effects, and China’s GDP is one of the only ones that will grow from 2019 to 2020.

Compared to that, the “freer countries” didn’t want to do a strict lockdown, don’t want to stop protests, don’t want to interfere with free individual rights, and don’t want to mandate masks (studies show suggesting them does nothing, mandating slows fatalities by 12%+). So after almost a year, we have more than a million deaths, millions of cases, protests in the streets, super spreading events, full hospitals, many sick health care workers, politicized health care and protocols. Economic damage is substantial; as many as 50%-75% of bars and restaurants could close. Many will be homeless, lose their family home, be bankrupt, food lines around the world…even in America. Mental health is taking a toll. Schools opening and closing. Lots of domestic violence and drunk deaths/ODs. But to suggest that these “freeDumb protestors” are going to set Canada back a decade of economic recovery makes me sound like the grumpy old man in the room, even if that’s exactly what the facts are showing, even if we needed to save that wiggle room to save the fucking planet by 2030. We’ve blown it on your “right” to not wear a piece of cloth on your face —— if your freedoms can be taken away by wearing clothes in public spaces, you really need to reevaluate your life. I suggest you stop thinking about your rights and start thinking about your obligations as a famous and once eloquent US president said, “don’t ask what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country.”

My friend Davey said that makes me sound pro-China. Is it possible I’m just anti-stupid, and there aren’t that many places with pandemic responses I can be proud of right now? Meanwhile, we canceled plans to travel to Chengdu because one asymptomatic businessman traveled through there. He met a girl, and she went to a nail spa, a restaurant, and a bar. So they’ve pretty much closed down Chengdu for a week and will test half a million to a million people today and let us know what happened by the end of the week.

An article in the LA Times tells the story of a Korean super spreading event, “infected after 5 minutes from 20 feet away at a restaurant.” This shows a few things that aren’t new to me, as I’ve been saying it for almost a year, but the ‘conventional wisdom’ hasn’t been really applied yet. One, there is asymptomatic spread. Yes, not everyone who is sick looks sick. There is aerosolized travel; six feet (2m) means nothing if you’re in a stuffy room without HEPA filters on blast and open windows, and people have masks off. This, of course, means schools should never have opened (as I begged in an august entry) because they were never safe places and instead spread the pandemic like wildfire in some areas. Also, sit down dining indoors is probably a terrible idea. Any time you are not at home with your family bubble, everyone should be wearing a mask and with as much fresh air present as possible. Again, old news to me, but still not recognized by many in areas where cases and deaths are spiking.

David Wallace-Wells wrote a very interesting story in New York Magazine on December 7, that ‘We Had The Vaccine The Whole Time.’ The Moderna mRNA-1273 vaccine was designed over a weekend by January 13, two days after the genetic sequence was made public by China’s Yong-Zhen Zhang. It took most of a year to get through trials, bureaucracy, and production, but it’s wild to think that one of the best answers. A year and 1.5 million deaths globally later had been found over a weekend by January 13, 10 days before my lockdown in China began.

In Vaccine news, the UK started vaccinating with the Pfizer BioNTech vax yesterday. Its first two recipients were a 90-year-old woman, Margaret Keenan, and William Shakespeare, who is 81. Bill Gates, how will you spend your first day controlling these elderly ninjas from Coventry? 

They come in a fridge pizza box, stored at -70C. Once opened, they have 3.5 days to get out 975 doses. This is happening in seventy hubs across the UK, and people are being called in. People over 80, care home staff, front line workers are the first ones. Eight hundred thousand doses this week, 1,000,000 next week, about 5 million doses by the end of the year. (Can vaccinate 2.5 m people most at risk). There are limited side effects being reported: two anaphylactoid reactions. — allergic reactions. Both shortly after. Can make breathing difficult, swelling, all things we can treat well in a hospital setting. Both treated, both fine after, with a history of serious allergies and carry adrenalin pens (UK: adrenaline, USA: epinephrine, same thing—epi-pens). These were health care workers who knew the risks and decided to get vaccinated despite the reaction for their lives and ability to keep providing care to their people. If you search the depths of Twitter, there’s a discussion of ‘Bell’s palsy’ in four study volunteers, details emerging. British regulators dismiss the reports as anecdotal and unrelated to the vaccine. Overall it seems quite safe for the vast majority of people. 

A peer-reviewed paper on the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine shows it looks really good. This is the first peer-reviewed paper. This is the monkey DNA attenuated one. It’s called “Safety and efficacy of the ChaADOx1 nCov-19 vaccine (AZD1222) against SARS-COV2: an interim analysis of four randomized controlled trials in Brazil, South Africa, and the UK.  

Replication-deficient chimpanzee adenoviral vector. It contains the SARS-COV2 structural surface glycoprotein antigen (spike protein) SARSCOV-19 gene. Quite clever, really. This is how it works: once the chimpanzee adenovirus is in the body, will produce the glycoproteins (Sugar/carb proteins) expressed on the surface of the viral vector cell, the DNA will produce the spike protein, recognized by the T cells of the immune system, and they will be able to destroy infected cells and the B cells which will produce the antibodies needed to fight SARSCOV-2 before it becomes the COVID-19 disease. This recipe will teach the body how to fight the virus and win. It’s pretty sweet science. Four ongoing blinded, randomized, controlled trials. Studies in the UK, South Africa, Brazil, all participants over 18. The placebo is a vaccine meningococcal (meningitis); in Pzifer, they just got saline. 

The results were interesting: In the vaccine group: 2 doses were containing 5×10(10) 50 billion viral particles each, standard dose. A substantial subset in the UK got a half dose first dose (this had a surprisingly higher efficacy result). Infections were recorded 14 days after 2nd dose. 1000’s of people got this vaccine and the control vaccine and then waited for them to get infected. Someone counted as infection if they got infected 14 days+ after the second dose—data cutoff November 4, 2020, data collected April 23-Nov 4, 2020. 23,848 participants enrolled 11,636 participants (7,548 in the UK, 4088 in Brazil), interim primary efficacy analysis. Of the 11,636, 131 caught the infection of symptomatic COVID-19 at least 14 days after the second dose. Low dose/standard dose protocols and standard-dose/standard dose combined (in the UK). This was a lucky/interesting mistake. Results: Vaccine group: N 5,807 / 30 cases (infections). Control group: N 5,829 / 101 cases. Overall efficacy of 70.4% (pretty good, really) — but it gets more interesting. The standard dose / standard-dose group: 27 cases, control group 71 cases, 62.1% vaccine efficacy. (UK 60.3%, Brazil 64.2%, pretty close, accurate and replicated in 2 continents). The low dose / standard-dose group: 3 cases from 1,367. Control group 30 cases from 1,370 Vaccine efficacy was 90% —- low numbers but very promising and should be studied asap to confirm. LD/HD group had less asymptomatic infections also — a six-week gap may also help.

Implications for ongoing contagion— so many are pre-symptomatic, and asymptomatic is driving the pandemic. 30-40% reduction in asymptomatic infections is great. The longer gap between doses may help too. Some immunity level is shown from the first dose, but the second dose supports and improves the immunity. From 10 days after the first dose: Ten cases were hospitalized after the first dose. 2 severe, one death. All in the “non vaccinated control group.” In the vaccinated group: no hospitalizations, no severe, no deaths. So in a sense, it’s 100% efficacious in preventing severe covid and death, which is pretty stellar. One hundred million doses for the UK, 200-300 million for Europe, 100 million for the USA. It’s about $3 a shot, very cheap and accessible. Safety-wise: 74,341 person-months of safety follow-up: One hundred seventy-five severe adverse events occurred in 168 participants. Four died: car accident, murder, and two unrelated, but not from the vaccine, which is pretty reassuring. Eighty-four events in the vaccine group. 91 in the control group.

The next big battle will likely see the anti maskers and anti lockdown pro “freeDumbs” folk turn into anti-vaxxers. According to the NYTimes, 58% of Americans are willing to take the vaccine, 40% of the dutch, 59% of Indians’ skeptical’, 32% of the UK will ‘probably take it.’ 21% of the French said ‘ok “I would not trust it, I have no confidence,” said a man interviewed on the streets of Paris. For so long, capitalism has forced us to disparage the welfare state and to believe we have to be responsible for ourselves. Now this pandemic and later vaccine come along. We need to work together to solve the problem, and society glaringly is not ready to cash that check, and people just don’t have faith in working together much anymore. Except when they do, and those countries are often doing just great. ‘Meanwhile, Gerald Butts, Trudeau’s main advisor man on Twitter, is saying that China’s vaccine, at a respectable 80%+ efficacy but manageable at normal refrigerated temperatures, might be a more popular option for many and might be a good chance for China to practice its soft power by helping developing countries get vaccinated for affordable prices, which sounds like a good thing regardless of the politics.

Trump held a press conference to tote his “vaccine win,” even as it was revealed he passed up the chance to buy an additional 100 million doses or more of the “silver bullet vaccine” — now after the first 50 million (12% or so who will get doses) and then have to wait until at least June to get more. The farce pulled away with breaking news that the US supreme court just rejected a republican challenge to Biden’s win in Pennsylvania. There is just so much awful and dumb news from the Republican White House that it makes me feel dumber to read it and report it. In general, I am tuning out haters and fools and focusing on my own growth.

My subconscious is swirling still under the surface, and I am processing and coping with everything this year. One day I’ll spill the beans as to the stresses I made it through. I got home at lunch and helped Shaolin make a nice lunch, and then we went for a walk and got some coffee, enjoyed the sun, and discussed plans to see some snow on Monday and Tuesday. I felt peaceful and quiet like Shaolin and I were finally the cute and sweet little old people that could be Ethan’s grandparents. I hope we can keep it up.

I have Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday off. Cyberpunk 2077 is on order and just dropped online, but I will go with the family to the snow mountains and walk around.. the game will get played when I can play the game. Family is important. I’m really growing up.

Good, bad, I’m the guy with the gun, said Ash in Evil Dead, iconically. Labels are overrated, and it’s what we do that matters.

“I’ve probably worked harder in the last three weeks than I’ve ever worked in my life,” says Trump at a maskless rally, as both his lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis are in the hospital for COVID-19. She might be the first person to catch it live on TV from a (Rudy’s) fart (in court). What is Trump doing? Saving Americans from the pandemic? No, trying to overturn the legal vote, his desperate coup attempt. Just yesterday, he phones Governor Brian Kemp at least ten times, it’s reported, begging him to hold a special session to overturn the will of the people and their democratic election of President-Elect Joe Biden.

Meanwhile, here are the top 9 deadliest days in American history:

  1. Galveston Hurricane (8000)
  2. Antietam (3600)
  3. Yesterday
  4. September 11, 2001 (2977)
  5. Last Thursday (2861)
  6. Last Wednesday (2762)
  7. Last Tuesday (2461)
  8. Last Friday (2439)
  9. Pearl Harbor (2403)

I saw some video on Youtube of a senate testimony where a respiratory expert, Dr. Pierre Kory, testified passionately about how we need to use repurposed drugs that are shown to be safe and efficacious for the patients instead of waiting a year or more for new vaccines. They now have 3000 plus people dying a day in America alone, and he says the results for Ivermectin are that if used as a prophylaxis for healthcare workers, 100% of them would be safe — no more hero deaths of front line workers and the vast, overwhelming majority of these 3000 deaths a day would be prevented. Most people laugh the testimony off as theatrics because there was also an anti-vaxxer who gave testimony, and to me, that’s really sad. The studies have been clear: Vitamin D and Ivermectin are very effective and very safe.

Thinking about Trump hopefully for the last time, how he’s made politics so toxic, millions of people angry, threatening the honest service people doing democracy by the book, corrupting everyone around the GOP, it’s really sad. It’s a horrible life.

In Florida, Governor DeSantis appointed a small court judge, and their first action was to send secret police after a scientist who was fired for reporting accurate COVID-19 statistics for doctors and the public in Florida. Yes. That’s exactly how dumb and awful it sounds.

<< “Salesman: *slaps the USA* you can fit so many aggressively stupid idiots in this bad boy.>>

I think whether it’s a political discourse at the top or social media comments for the rest of us, the reason everything seems too stupid is that we’ve given an equal share platform to ludicrous, obviously provable anti-science idiots that don’t believe in masks, COVID-19, experts, global warming, climate catastrophe, basically are in fearful denial of our reality, and they’re stealing the oxygen out of the room. They aren’t even good faith idiots: many of them are bought and paid for by lobbyists and big industries. Why do you think the NIH in the USA says “no proof that Ivermectin is efficacious for COVID”? Do you think it’s because it’s $1 a pill, and 20-40% of them are sponsored by Gilead, who’s producing a $3000 a pill version that doesn’t work as well? If you think no way, you’re dreaming. But why haven’t they updated their recommendations since August 31, and it’s December 10? Because there are so many studies out now showing Ivermectin is efficacious, they’d have to admit that they should be using it if they updated their page. So by pushing, we can overcome complacency and corruption. At least that’s the idea.

I need to focus on my mental AiKiDo, floating through life for minutes at a time without having an opinion at all. The boys in the class are misbehaving? They’re not challenging my authority, and they’re missing a chance to learn something meaningful. I will continue on my trajectory, and they, theirs. There is no need to smash their asteroids into the body of my planet. I just let them slip on by.

My publishing agent and friend gives me a beep as am headed home for lunch and a few hours of relaxing. We’ve won a literary award from a Chinese foreign language fellowship for the first Kai’s Diary (The Invisible War, Chinese lockdown pandemic diary collection). This year was a year full of challenges, but also successes. First pandemic, first internationally syndicated pandemic journalist column, first nonfiction book, first non-English publishing, and now, first international non-English literary award. That’s neat. Sometimes if you just keep on going, everything else sorts itself out. As a quote attributed to Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius puts it, “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” Standing at a wall of opposition can be intimidating, but it also creates drive and innovation. Knowing the wall you have to climb can push you to find a way past it.

“The man who has anticipated the coming of troubles takes away their power when they arrive.” – Seneca

 This is not the end, this is not even the beginning of the end, but this might be the end of the beginning.

Kai has been writing about the pandemic since his lockdown began on January 23, 2020. You can follow his fight against COVID-19 on his blog, theinvisiblewar.co, or find his first collection, Kai’s Diary (The Invisible War), the story of Chongqing’s battle against the COVID epidemic in book stores and on Amazon.

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