Two Questions That Need to Be Asked About COVID and Risk

For those who suffer from tl;dr, they are:

  1. What is the prevalence of COVID-infected people in your area? That is, what percentage of people are infected–and infectious?
  2. What percentage of vaccinated and boosted people will still contract long COVID if infected?

Yesterday, I saw both David Weigel and Helaine Olen dump on people who are still trying very hard to avoid getting COVID. Weigel doesn’t surprise me: for the last year, he seems to have been on the Leonhardt train, and he strikes me as a know-it-all jackass to boot. But Olen is disappointing, as she writes eloquently about low-income workers, who are the most likely to be affected by loosening COVID protections.

As best as I can tell, this is largely vibes on their part: they don’t have answers to the questions I posed above, nor would they use that information to change their behavior. It’s just vibes all the way down. What makes this galling is that, in their own areas of expertise, they wouldn’t tolerate that: they would require knowledge of both politics and policy. But when it comes to an infectious disease that has killed over one million people and disabled millions more, vibes baby!

By the way, if you’re wondering what my answers might look like to the two questions I posed, for the prevalence question, I have no idea–that’s why I’ve been calling for public release of hospital intake data for asymptomatic patients (i.e., what percent of those showing up to the hospital without symptoms test positive for COVID) since 2020. In lieu of that, one has to be somewhat conservative.

Regarding the second question, my read of the literature, including a conservative ‘fudge factor’, is one to two percent of vaccinated and boosted people will contract severe long COVID (e.g., here and here). You’re not the weirdo if you’re trying to avoid being (re)infected.

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2 Responses to Two Questions That Need to Be Asked About COVID and Risk

  1. My county only provides information on PCR test numbers on seemingly random business days now. No idea what prevalence is even with that not great metric. Can’t really even compare this week to last week anymore to make decisions.

  2. jrs says:

    They want to call it fear, which is an emotion, but it’s really an approach to the unknown. If we seem to have no clue the rate of long term complications in vaxed people then what is the proper course? Like suppose it was a purely rational matter and emotions had little to do with it? What is one’s long term health worth and how does one decide?

    And frankly I think for most people at this point, emotions usually don’t have much to do with it. Anyone who has abandoned all precaution isn’t afraid for 2+ years. Yea and NEITHER are most of those taking precautions (and those who are afraid probably have very good reason like high risk medical conditions).

    The rate of long term covid complications in vaxed people is also getting impossible to tell, to the extent anyone even tries to track it. I mean we have people vaxed with 2 vaxes and we have people that have 4-5 vaxes including one that is supposed to target the circulating variant rather than prior vaxes which target an extinct variant. So both are “vaxed”, but it doesn’t strike me as remotely comparable really. The later group should be far better protected. But we don’t really know that as we don’t really have effectiveness data against infection on the bivalent vax as far as I know. And we don’t track breakthroughs.

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