Thursday, November 10, 2022


Both town and country people talk to me a great deal. They really think of nothing except their fields and their bits of farms and investments. And look how the tables are turned! They fear the man they used to trust and love the man they used to dread.
—Roman Senator Cicero, writing of Julius Caesar.

The title of this little essay is simply “Thread” because that’s how I did most of my writing in the last couple of years. It also applies to what our Constitutional republic hangs by–a frail little thread of razor-thin majorities and judges with integrity–as we witness the slow, grinding ascent of fascism not only in this country but also around the world.

Hanging by a thread, in more ways than one

There are surely better descriptions for what I want to say today, but I’m trying not to spend as much time worrying about things like titles and footnotes anymore.1 It was freeing not having them available on Twitter; I’d lean back in the recliner and tap away furiously on my iPad for an hour, one chunk of 240 characters after another. The results inspired 6,700 or so people to follow my Tweets.

Mostly, they were warnings about what a dangerous gamble it is to get yourself infected with the SARS-Cov-2 virus. There were expositions on probability theory, engineering analogies, and even a nose-only PAPR device I invented to go to the dentist and feel safe while people coughed in cubicles nearby. Some of them got seen by tens of thousands of people–occasionally more than a hundred thousand. I developed an online friendship of sorts with some of those people, and hope to keep in touch with them. It was fun while it lasted.

But the time for that feels mostly over now. Why? Not just because another narcissist billionaire is infecting yet another public gathering space with his grandiose and fragile ego. Certainly not because of the few pathetic trolls that tried their best to seem like they where the smart ones for making fun of a person urging caution against an airborne respiratory pathogen during the worst pandemic in a hundred years. They were kind of fun to toy with, actually.

What finally got me off Twitter, at least for a while, was the 2022 midterm election in my beloved battered country, the barely-United States of America. As of this writing, I remain among what must be a small number of people who still don’t know the result.

Seriously, I have no idea what happened. The acres of trees surrounding my home remain silent as to the outcome, as does my wife. She’s seen me enter this virtual monastery before. She respects the vow of silence about current events.

I was cloistered here for about a month after the 2016 election, unable to watch one of the worst human beings of a generation take a wrecking ball to the foundations of the country I love. Another visit was in 2020, for a week after Ruth Bader Ginsburg died and the country found itself at the mercy of Mitch McConnell’s sense of fair play–entirely absent, of course.

The virtual monastery yesterday evening

It’s a way of giving myself space to process a historical event with an uncomfortably high probability of a disastrous outcome. (We’ve had a few of those lately.) And, as these photos from a walk in the woods yesterday evening demonstrate, it’s a beautiful place to be disconnected.2

What a rare thing it is to simply walk away from all sources of information about the madness of our world! Few are even inclined to try, and for most it’s nearly impossible anyhow. You’ll get some alert on your phone that you feel compelled to check, or Fox News will be playing on the TV somewhere you’d rather not see it, or a friend will ask you about what happened. And then–poof!–your ignorant bliss is gone.

Sadly, a lot of those information sources are easily disconnected for me now. The worst pandemic in a hundred years is still very much underway, contrary to the mass delusion that has taken over the entire world saying everything’s back to normal again. It’s deepened the social isolation of those of us who haven’t been persuaded to go around breathing a dangerous airborne pathogen with a proven track record of causing long-term damage to people’s bodies.

I’m not really looking forward to letting the world back in. There were no surprises upon my return from previous visits to the virtual monastery. Things turned out about as badly as I’d expected. The unpleasant reality is that there is simply no limit to how much the Republican Party will exploit every possible opportunity to seize and retain power.

Let me use this fleeting state of innocence to do a bit of reflection. I am deliberately not going to provide any references for what I say in the next several paragraphs. Another sad reality: Hardly anyone cares about what you put in the footnotes anyhow.3

Hell, hardly anyone even reads anymore beyond the bite-size chunks of social media. If you are one of those rare souls and like what you’re seeing here, please retweet or retoot of whatever and maybe there will be views of this to make it feel worthwhile doing again.

“The mountain is still green today.”

The election is an example of probability meeting reality. The ethereal “could be this, but maybe that” cloud of possibility represented by a random variable gets collapsed into a single established value. Nate Silver’s red and blue poll-analysis diagrams (to which I have not paid the slightest attention this time around) turn into a Congressional seating chart.

This happens on the quantum level everywhere and at every moment. Radioactive elements unleash particles when some wave function finally tunnels past a barrier of the improbable to escape its unstable home in an unwieldy mass of protons and neutrons that had been clumped together for seconds, years, even centuries. Photons end their journeys through space-time and land on surfaces that do not care about double-slit experiments but just get hot in the sun. The RNA of a virus fails to exactly preserve the original sequence of amino acids of its predecessor, switching things around or dropping something old or inserting something new and thus starts the next wave of a pandemic.

Still as they were–for one more season of a hundred

Randomness—which all ultimately traces back to the dice being thrown in a truly unpredictable way down at the subatomic level—is the engine driving the evolution that made us and all the life around us.

When you zoom out from quarks and photons and electron probability clouds, when the instability of interconnected systems amplifies countless tiny inputs in ways that we can’t possibly comprehend, big things happen sometimes and make other big things happen more often. That virus walks out of a lab in the nose of a careless worker or flies out of a cave in a bat (pick whichever scenario you prefer) and three years later tens of millions have had their lives changed or ended by it. An FBI director shoots his mouth off in front of the cameras days before a Presidential election and swings just enough votes in just the right places to infect the Oval Office and then the nation with a disease of cultish bigoted authoritarianism.

Probabilities become realities. Sometimes, the improbable nonetheless occurs, and then the random walk we are all on collectively lurches abruptly this way or that. A Supreme Court can collapse with the ceasing of a hubristic old woman’s heartbeat. Lingering disease becomes the commonplace and even accepted outcome of daily life visiting stores, restaurants, or friends. Democracies wither and die.

One day you’re waving at the neighbor guy, and ten years later he’s standing at the edge of a pit with a rifle pointed at your head. Do not delude yourself into thinking it will never happen again. It will, and in many parts of the world even now, is.4

I’ll know about the election outcome tomorrow or a day after. The trees aren’t talking, but I won’t stay this isolated for long. My wife or one of the kids will say something offhand, or I’ll see some email whose subject line breaks the news.

It’s fascinating, though, this not knowing. For me, personally, the photon is still going through both slits simultaneously; the wave function has not yet collapsed into a detection of this discrete outcome or that one.

As with most things that have potentially terrible outcomes, like a SARS-CoV-2 infection or marrying into a MAGA family, the probability of badness seems to follow a log-normal distribution. This is because our perception of how bad things are tends to be logarithmic rather than linear.

When your body can walk half as far as it did before you brought the virus home from that concert, it’s bad, but only being able to walk a fourth as far doesn’t seem four times worse. You move to the right, toward the long tail of the log-normal curve. You have to get quite a ways out there before you can rest assured that nothing so bad will happen to you.

Sitting down for an unmasked dinner at Denny’s probably won’t get you bedridden for the rest of your life; if it did, even a society as careless and stupid as ours would be taking this virus seriously. But it is happening, and for those it happens to, it’s the end of their life as they knew it. The log-normal curve is a tricky deceptive thing; it piles up the not-so-bad outcomes down on the left and fools us into thinking there’s no long tail out there to worry about.

Well, I’m sorry, but it’s there, and it grabs people and nations and even planets, and sometimes never lets go. Things fall apart; the center cannot hold, as Yeats wrote in his immortal poem.

Beware the log-normal probability distribution

The happiest scenario A, not as likely as it would have been even ten years ago, is an uncontested loss by the party seeking to deny election results they don’t like, further dismantle the public commons and any semblance of environmental protections, roll back the last forty years of progress in women’s rights and stop people from loving and marrying consenting adults of whatever their preference.

Mitch McConnell would call Joe Biden and offer his congratulations, promising to respect the will of the people and work together with a solidified Democratic majority. A chastened Supreme Court realizes that it’s not an imperial star chamber and gets busy following precedent again.

Yeah, right.


In scenario B, the Democrats manage a convincing enough win. No Turkish grifters, anti-Semites, or brain-damaged serial cheaters manage to win high office. The GOP complains, Mitch remains a royal pain in the ass, but the health of our representative republic remains intact–perhaps stronger. Joe Biden might even decide to finally fire Rochelle Walensky now that he doesn’t have to pretend Covid is over.

This also feels unlikely. Sure, I hope it’s what happened, but there’s a lot more area under the curve to the right.


Scenario C is at the mode of our log-normal distribution, though not at the mean or even the median. If you were to ask what is the single most likely isolated outcome, that’s it, but, critically, it is not yet at the point where half of the time things will turn out better. It’s a narrow win or stalemate, where things aren’t really worse than they were before the election but we can sort of stumble along for a while. Maybe a Democrat with charisma, integrity, and a few decades of remaining life expectancy might win the Presidency in two years. Maybe.

But here is where I have some bad news to share, regardless of whatever news you might be wishing you could tell me right now, if you’ll excuse my abuse of the language: Things can get much more worse than they can get much more better.

Much better than now isn’t some paradise where everybody lives in blissful abundance and harmony. It’s just a functioning democracy where both sides respect the outcome of elections and aren’t trying to wreck the planet or other people’s lives. That doesn’t seem like much to ask, but we weren’t there the last time I looked at the news a couple of days ago.

This random walk we’re on now is as likely as not to take you to far worse places. And if you wind up there, you’ll be facing a whole new log-normal probability distribution that is centered on how bad things have become, complete with its own long tail farther to the right.


Scenario D is the Democrats winning, but not by much, and the GOP engaging in an all-out cold civil war of trying to cheat or bully their way to victory.

Pretty much the same probability is the scenario E, with the democrats losing–also not by much, but it doesn’t matter. The GOP will take any sort of victory as a massive mandate to tear down what’s left of the country and keep marching us on a random walk toward fascism. I wish I were more optimistic about that bunch, but I’m not.


Scenario F is the Democrats losing by a lot, and G is them losing by a little and the GOP being even worse about it than my wildest expectations.

Neither of these are things I choose to dwell on this evening. May I be proven a pessimist this time. I’ll take scenario B with all the humility it brings, and gladly.


  1. Still, it feels irresponsible not to provide a few. The epigraph was quoted in Ancient Rome: The Rise and Fall of an Empire by Simon Baker. “In Rome,” Baker says, “Caesar’s enemies were thrown into a fit of panic. They had hoped that the respectable classes in towns throughout Italy would rise up as one in defence of the republic against the invader. But as Caesar waged his blitzkrieg without significant opposition, they quickly realized that they had hopelessly misread the majority view.” Sounds all too familiar. 

  2. All but the first are from yesterday. You can click on any of them to see the high-resolution versions. 

  3. When I self-published my first book An Examination of the Pearl ten years ago, I was proud of how carefully it documented the historical and doctrinal problems with the fundamentalist Christian cult in which I was raised and spent the first 40 years of my life. But the rigor of providing footnotes and references and context for quotations now feels like a lost art. Many of the same people who complimented me on that and expressed relief at someone finally standing up to church authorities now seem eager for unconstitutional authoritarian rule of the whole damn country. 

  4. My pessimism in this department might be the result of generational memory. See, for example, In Memoriam: Kurt Stein written in honor of my uncle who was shot by firing squad for refusing to fight in Hitler’s army. 

Sunday, January 9, 2022

Long Covid Lament

Now if real daylight such as I remember having seen in this world would only come again, but it is always twilight or just before morning, a promise of day that is never kept. What has become of the sun? That was the longest and loneliest night and yet it will not end and let the day come. Shall I ever see light again?
Pale Horse, Pale Rider (1938) by Katherine Anne Porter, survivor, 1918 influenza.

An open letter to Michael Osterholm, epidemiologist. His weekly podcast The Osterholm Update is an excellent source of current Covid-19 information.

Dear Dr. Osterholm,

Having listened to your thoughtful and informative podcasts ever since they began, I’ve wanted to share my own beautiful place with you in the eight pictures below.1 These acres of conifer forest surrounding my home here in the inland Pacific Northwest have long been a sanctuary for the bear and cougar and all the other wildlife whose tracks I see in the winter snow and the soft earth of spring. For the bald eagles and owls and hawks who soar high overhead.

Winter pictures taken last week.

The challenges of our time still intrude here, with more wildfires each summer and a local population that remains mostly unvaccinated, even now. But these woods have been my sanctuary, too, as I’ve walked and worked and meditated beneath big pines, fir, and larch that were just saplings during the influenza pandemic of 1918. They were here long before me, and I’m doing what I can to give them a chance at still standing after I’m gone.

None of these tracks was made by a human.

After hearing you talk about your work on tallgrass prairie restoration and continuing to ask for listeners to share their beautiful places, I figured you’d appreciate seeing these photos of mine. For many hours, I’ve listened to your voice in my earbuds while controlling noxious weeds, harvesting deadfall for firewood, and thinning the smaller trees that are too close together to thrive. Yours has been a comforting but also honest voice, keeping me informed without sugarcoating the bad news about each wave of new cases, without ego, without false promises. Thank you for the work you do.


I would like to be equally honest and continue with some words that are not intended for you to read on your podcast but for you to take into your heart as you inform the public each week about the dangers of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

It’s about the devastating persistent symptoms that so many people are now enduring after their often mild acute infections. They gave it a name, Long Covid, to describe month after month of terrifying mental and physical limitations, of a fatigue that often goes far beyond just a sense of being tired all the time. Many of them experience this so-called fatigue as a relentless profound exhaustion that leaves them utterly spent after basic household tasks, or even getting out of bed to go to the bathroom. Their brains are fogged, their ears are ringing, their noses don’t work, their bodies have become prisons of pain and loss and disability.

This open letter is for them, to give voice to what they know all too well. And in hopes that our public health experts will finally start to talk about what has happened to them, and is happening right now to so many more.

For the people like PJ Morrison, who has been dealing with the aftermath of her Covid-19 infection for 22 months now. In the early stages, she felt “like her veins were on fire–pulsating and raised.” That has mostly quietened down, apart from those in her hands and ankles. “My feet and hands don’t work well now,” she says, and she can no longer dance or run or even put on a coat without help. She’s looking for the small wins where she can, like last month when she celebrated managing to get in and out of the bath unaided and six weeks earlier when she was finally able to walk without pain.2

Byn Always (that’s her real name, under which she’s written a couple of books) knows all too well about the limitations imposed by Long Covid. A doctor visit just sent her to bed to sleep for 33 of the 36 hours afterwards, “unable to even sit up for more than ten minutes while awake.” If she goes beyond her strict energy budget, she winds up with vocal tremors so severe that she can barely talk. The limitations extend beyond the physical realm; she used to love to read but now her brain fog gets in the way of that.

As with most long haulers I’ve corresponded with, it’s not just what Byn can’t do anymore, but also the many unwelcome sensations that impose themselves on her. She gets an “internal buzzing” and tinnitus that comes and goes, and her eyes sometimes hurt, feeling “like someone tried to jab them from my eye sockets all night.” She’s in her early 50s, a mother of five.3

Of course all this is affecting their ability to work, and that adds another level of emotional as well as economic pain. Marjorie Roberts says she and her fellow longhaulers “are being punished for contracting this awful virus which has changed our lives forever.” She’s been fighting for an unemployment hearing since April 2021, after contracting Covid in March 2020, “at my place of employment but was denied benefits.” She was told–undoubtedly by somebody who either does not know or care about the need for rest to avoid post-exertional malaise–that contracting Covid-19 was not a valid reason for her to resign. She now lives with disabling daily fatigue, as well as spots in her liver, nodules and sarcoidosis in her lungs, and the loss of seven teeth. She feels ignored and discarded.4

I could go on with quite a few more of these stories, just from people I’ve interacted with personally online, like Daria Oller, a physical therapist and athletic trainer who got sick on March 15, 2020 and went through a period when her post-exertional crashes left her unable to lift up her head, sometimes even to speak. She’s doing better, though “nothing like who I use to be” and now dealing with a significant setback from a recent reinfection. She’s 37.5

Like Denise Martin, 54, who was infected in April 2020 and then again in November of 2021–after being vaccinated. She’s retired after a 28-year nursing career and was already living with chronic illness before Covid came along. Never hospitalized, hers would have been classified as one of those “mild” cases, but she’s traumatized from the experience of struggling to breathe, and now struggles to even get out of bed.6

I’ve read firsthand accounts by hundreds of others.

Dr. Osterholm, you surely must know that this is not a rare thing. According to a meta-analysis of dozens of studies that was just released ahead of publication in Brain Behavior and Immunity, about a third of people are experiencing that symptom so innocuously labeled as “fatigue” three months after their Covid-19 diagnosis. Just over a fifth of them are exhibiting cognitive impairment at that point.7

These figures are disturbingly high, but they match what was already revealed by another multi-study review published in JAMA Network Open: Infectious Diseases back in October. There, the median prevalence for “fatigue or muscle weakness” was found to be around 38%, and around 17% for cognitive impairment. The authors determined the median prevalence of overall Post-Acute Sequelae of Covid-19 to be around 50%, a figure that changed little when looking at short, intermediate, and long-term time periods.8

The commonly accepted conservative estimate is that 10% of people with Covid-19 will go on to develop Long Covid.9 With 60 million reported cases in the U.S., even that much lower figure equates to several million of our fellow citizens now facing long-term consequences of having been infected. These are terrifying numbers. And as you often say when speaking about Covid-19 death statistics, they represent much more. They are loved ones and friends and actual human beings.

Before the snow, September 2021.

How can any epidemiologist not talk about this?10 Just from the aftermath of the Delta variant, we are very likely facing a national and global wave of largely hidden adversity and disability not seen in any of our lifetimes. And we just don’t know yet whether Omicron will result in less Long Covid, do we? Hopefully so, but as you like to say, hope is not a strategy.


Well, OK, but we have the vaccines, now, right? Still providing some decent protection against “severe disease” and death. Unfortunately, the studies are showing that Long Covid remains a significant risk even for infections that occur after vaccination.

You’ve acknowledged that these so-called “breakthrough” cases are not rare and have been warning for months about the danger of variants evading our vaccines. Well, Omicron has shown that your crystal ball isn’t quite as mud-covered as you modestly protest. It appears that those of us with all three shots of an mRNA vaccine still wind up about half as likely to be infected by this highly transmissible new variant as people who never got vaccinated.11 That means a lot of breakthrough cases heading our way.

With those odds of being infected by the variant that is exploding across the country now, it seems that we really ought to be paying attention to how much risk of long-term sequelae a post-vaccination infection entails.

Let’s get one important thing out of the way: There are definitely fewer firsthand accounts on Twitter and Reddit from people who developed Long Covid from a post-vaccination infection. I’ve seen just a handful rather than hundreds. Two of them responded to an inquiry I posted on Twitter.12

One had her sense of smell and taste disturbed for three months, with the common “rotting flesh” scent and almost everything tasting and smelling awful. Things appear to be improving now.13 Another correspondent, a fit middle-aged man in Texas who’d gotten all three shots before he was infected, was “fatigued, fogged, no appetite, ear ringing and worried this won’t get better” for two weeks. He has started feeling better now in his third week, though the fatigue still hits him as the day progresses.14

I want to be respectful with the stories of these two people who have reached out to me. You don’t want to be infected by this nasty little pathogen if you can possibly help it, vaccinated or not, but these are not the kind of traumatic and disabling outcomes that Daria and Byn and Marjorie are living with. For them, vaccine protection is a cruel fiction, a life preserver that never made it into the water before some part of them drowned.

Unfortunately, the studies are leaving us with little room for complacency even when it comes to breakthrough cases. One published in The Lancet showed that the risk of symptoms lasting more than four weeks is approximately halved for those who were infected after a second vaccine dose.15 We are talking about long-term consequences of an infection, and I view that glass as half empty, not half full. The work being done by Dr. Maxime Taquet and his colleagues at the University of Oxford suggest that it’s mostly empty, with no statistically significant reduction in risk for developing many Long Covid symptoms six months after a breakthrough vs unvaccinated infection, and little reduction for almost all symptoms.16

Some studies have shown a modest protective effect, such as one posted just a few days ago by researchers at Bar-Ilan University in Israel, where both testing and vaccination rates are high.17 They found the usual disturbingly high occurence of people reporting a less than full recovery, about a third, with those “fully vaccinated . . . 36-73% less likely to report eight of the ten most commonly reported symptoms.” As with The Lancet study, the observed risk reduction was, in aggregate, about half.18 Doesn’t seem all that reassuring.

The individual symptoms are what stand out to me, though. Remember that little word “fatigue” that is plaguing and limiting the lives of people like Daria or even my Texan correspondent three weeks after his triple-vaxxed breakthrough case, both of them with more than half their lives ahead? It showed up at basically the same rate, vaccinated or not, for those in their age bracket, and around 40% as much overall. Same for the “loss of concentration” that’s keeping Byn from reading like she used to. Same for the “persistent muscle pain” that PJ understands all too well.19

Another study (still in pre-print, as with most of the research happening in this fast-changing area) of breakthrough cases recorded in the VA health system showed a similarly discouraging lack of risk reduction. It was not even statistically significant for symptom clusters labeled “Neurologic,” “Musculoskeletal,” “Mental Health,” “Kidney,” and “Gastrointestinal,” and barely so for our old friend “Fatigue.”20

Do Look Up!

Why do your listeners never hear about any of this? It’s a question that honestly puzzles me. A person who has gotten their Covid-19 information exclusively from your podcast for the past year would be well served in many ways, but would not even know that Long Covid exists, much less what a significant threat it poses, even with the vaccines.

Dr. Osterholm, one of your strengths as a public health expert is your use of clear everyday analogies to describe difficult situations. As someone who has delighted at seeing big deep hoof tracks in these woods, I particularly liked how you told us a few weeks ago about the value of a good set of tires and brakes while driving down a country road where moose were likely to be crossing. It was a memorable way for you to warn us to be prepared for what’s coming with Omicron.

I’d like to suggest one more important piece of equipment: a pair of headlights. We can’t stop in time to avoid hitting something that we never see. A lot of people depend on you to let them know what is ahead. Considering the extreme risk we all face of being infected by this vaccine-evading variant, it seems we ought to be lighting the road ahead as brightly as possible.

With respect and appreciation,
Edwin A. Suominen
Triple-vaccinated, still uninfected, and worried


  1. As with my other nature photography, I am releasing these photos under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license. 

  2. PJ Morrison, Cork, Ireland. “Writer-Comedian-Poet–in a body that doesn’t work so well–needing humour & strength to escape those telling me “ah sure it’ll be grand,”​wastelessme

  3. Byn’s Weird Brain, Midwestern USA. “Longcovid knocked me on my ass (early 2020 & counting) I don’t even know who I am anymore,”​BynThereDoneTht

  4. Dr. Marjorie Roberts, Georgia, USA. “Mom, wife, veteran, covid-19 survivor, advocate,”​DrMarjorieRobe1

  5. Daria Oller, PT, DPT, ATC, New Jersey. “Physical Therapist, Athletic Trainer, Tap Dancer, Runner, Burlesque Performer, Education Co-Director Long COVID Physio,”​OnTapPhysio

  6. Denise Martin, Bristol, England. “Mental health campaigner. Retired mental health nurse. Ginger cat lover,”​whatsdeedoing

  7. Ceban F, Ling S, Lui, LMW, et al. “Fatigue and Cognitive Impairment in Post-COVID-19 Syndrome: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis,” Brain, Behavior, and Immunity (2021 Dec 29),​10.1016/j.bbi.2021.12.020

  8. Groff D, Sun A, Ssentongo A, et al. “Short-term and Long-term Rates of Postacute Sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 Infection A Systematic Review,” JAMA Network Open: Infectious Diseases (2021 Oct 13),​journals/jamanetworkopen/​fullarticle/2784918

  9. See, e.g., Dr. Nisreen Alwan’s Tweet of January 7 about the situation in the UK: “A reasonable conservative prevalence of LC (>3m) is 1 in 10 out of all those infected. This is based on updated ONS estimates in Sep 2021,”​Dr2NisreenAlwan/status/​1479566880197206022

  10. It’s been over a year since Episode 24 (“Long Haulers”), and it just doesn’t seem to get mentioned on the podcast anymore. 

  11. For Moderna, see Hung Fu Tseng, Bradley Ackerson, Yi Luo, et al. “Effectiveness of mRNA-1273 against SARS-CoV-2 omicron and delta variants” (2022 Jan 8),​content/10.1101/​2022.01.07.22268919v1. The two doses most “fully vaccinated” people have has a VEI of around 30% at best (i.e., they have about 70% the risk of infection as someone unvaccinated), dropping to zero after six months. The third shot starts out above 60% VEI, dropping to 49% for those who received it on or before October 21, 2021.

    These results are if anything optimistic compared to the findings of the UK Health Security Agency’s 31 December 2021 briefing, which shows a third shot of the Moderna (mRNA-1273) vaccine having an initial efficacy of around 60-75% against symptomatic infection. The efficacy (again, against symptomatic infection) with two shots of Pfizer (BNT162b2) drops to essentially zero after 20 weeks. With a third shot, it starts out at around 65% and drops to around 50% by the tenth week.

    These are of course both pre-prints; Omicron appeared just six weeks ago. 

  12. My inquiry Tweet (with a thread of follow-up Tweets) was seen almost 25,000 times, yet resulted in just two reports of lingering symptoms after breakthrough infections that I was able to follow up on. This runs counter to my overall narrative, but must be discussed candidly.​edsuom/status/​1478058813873799169

  13. Lisa Joseph,​LisaJos21457910


  15. Antonelli M, Penfold R, Merino J, et al. “Risk factors and disease profile of post-vaccination SARS-CoV-2 infection in UK users of the COVID Symptom Study app: a prospective, community-based, nested, case-control study,” The Lancet: Infectious Diseases (2021 Sept 1),​10.1016/S1473-3099(21)00460-6. See esp. Figure 3. 

  16. Taquet M, Dercon Q, Harrison P, “Six-month sequelae of post-vaccination SARS-CoV-2 infection: a retrospective cohort study of 10,024 breakthrough infections” (2021 Nov 8),​10.1101/2021.10.26.21265508

  17. Kuodi P, Gorelick Y, Zayyad H, et al. “Association between vaccination status and reported incidence of post-acute COVID-19 symptoms in Israel: a cross-sectional study of patients infected between March 2020 and November 2021” (2022 Jan 6),​10.1101/2022.01.05.22268800

  18. As with all of these observational studies, the picture is a bit clouded by complicating factors. Participants were self-selected with a low survey response rate, few had ever been hospitalized, some of them had a third shot or were infected before vaccination, and no children were included. And the paper leaves the nature of their “adjusted regression model” so unclear that I am choosing to ignore the adjusted results.

    “We adjusted for the difference in follow-up time and proportion of asymptomatic patients at the time of diagnosis between the groups. In addition, to take the anticipated age differences into account, the analysis was age-stratified and differences in the length of time from the beginning of symptoms to responding to the survey were adjusted for in the model.” Meaning what, exactly? 

  19. Table 3: “Crude and adjusted risk ratios for the most frequent post COVID symptoms among partially and fully vaccinated participants compared with unvaccinated ones.” 

  20. Ziyad Al-Aly, Benjamin Bowe, Yan Xie, “Long Covid after Breakthrough COVID-19: the post-acute sequelae of breakthrough COVID-19” (2021 Nov 15),​10.21203/

Sunday, September 13, 2020


There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.
—Proverbs 6:16-19 (ESV)

Nineteen years ago last week, terrorists under the command of Osama bin Laden carried out an attack that resulted in the deaths of 2,977 Americans. I put a flag on my vehicle just like millions of my fellow citizens. All around were yellow ribbons and bumper stickers saying “United We Stand.”

On the Wednesday evening after the attack, I attended one of my conservative Laestadian church’s small-group Bible classes in a member’s home. We sat in prayer, asking God to give our leaders guidance and strength, and then dispensed with the regular topic to talk about what had just happened to our country.

I never imagined that a day would come, less than two decades later, when that country would look like the one I see now. That at least a third of my fellow citizens–including most if not all of the people I was sitting among that Wednesday evening–are supporting a man who has done nothing but betray them since he took office.

Let’s be very clear about this, dear believer: Donald J. Trump has betrayed you. He has violated all the Christian values you have taught to your children, that you claim to stand for: honesty, sexual fidelity, respect for officials, Christian love for one’s fellow man. Just look at the Bible verse quoted at the top of this essay; every word could be addressed to the man you voted for as President of the United States.

I mean, just look at these seven things the Bible–your Bible–calls “abominations” to God (Prov. 6:16-19). Look at those verses with those judgment-sharpened eyes of yours, believer, and see how much they fit this man you so steadfastedly champion. There are no more “haughty eyes,” than those of this narcissist who makes every single thing about himself and craves constant admiration. Is there really more of “a lying tongue” on the part of any public official? Does anyone else even come close to his thousands of provable lies? Is anyone else close to being such “a false witness who breathes out lies”?

If you keep reading, you will be able to see the “hands that shed innocent blood.” We have certainly seen the “heart that devises wicked plans” and “feet that make haste to run to evil,” many times over. (You might start with paying off porn stars for their silence about his adultery and continue from there to a whole disgusting list of cruelty and crimes.)

And there really is no doubt about his being someone “who sows discord among brothers,” is there? Seriously, you’re not going to try to claim that, after the thousands of thousands of insults and all the mocking and jeering? Just thinking about some of them is exhausting and sickening. You support even that?

There is a very real spiritual danger you face, dear believer, and I am not afraid to warn you of it even as an atheist who does not share your beliefs about sins or souls. You are headed straight for the cliff of irredeemable hypocrisy, where your words about morality mean nothing, where your faith without works is dead. It matters who you put into the highest office of the land. It matters to the entire nation, yes, and to me, but also to your soul. What have you become?


Now, we will have to gloss over a number of other betrayals. Not because they are anything less than stunning and disgusting, but simply because our attention spans are limited (mine, too, nowadays) and I want to show you how personal his betrayal really is–beyond just your beliefs, and beyond these awful things: He has of course also betrayed his oath of office, many times over, and the lives of our military members.

I wish I could help you understand–along with all but one Republican U.S. senator–how serious it was when he said, “Do me a favor, though?” to a foreign head of state before he would release foreign aid funds that had been authorized by Congress.1 Or when he demanded that governors be nice to him before he would send much-needed Coronavirus aid to their states.2 Or the way he is trying to sabotage the U.S. Postal Service because–as he said himself, on tape–he doesn’t like people voting by mail. Or when he just violated the Hatch Act by staging his Republican convention speech from the White House lawn–our White House?3 Do you like having government property trespassed on for use as a campaign prop? I sure don’t.

Regarding the lives of our military members–most recently, you may recall that those bounties put on their heads by Vladimir Putin was none of this President’s concern. And you do know what he thinks of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country, right? Suckers and losers, from John McCain to the thousands of honored dead whose graves he wouldn’t visit because the rain would mess up his hair.4

I wish there were a way to help you see how serious this all is. But let’s get personal again, this time with the betrayal of you and your life.

COVID-19 Chronology

As of September 12, by the reckoning of The New York Times, 193,551 Americans have lost their lives to COVID-19. It’s very important for you to understand this one critical thing about Donald Trump: He has also betrayed you, by making you think COVID-19 is no big deal and masks are for liberal wimps, that you should pack together in a rally and dismiss the dangers of this virus. It’s your honorable service as a veteran of our armed forces. It’s your Christian soul that suffers from the sin of hypocrisy, supporting a man so flagrantly against every one of your values.

Please, would you just stop defending him at every turn for a moment–just this once–and consider how deep that betrayal really is? If so, keep reading.


Below is a timeline of things said and done (or not done) by this President about the virus, in chronological order.5 Each image represents one 9/11 worth of American deaths (2,977) that occurred from COVID-19 during the time between those statements.6 Quotes in red are things he said in private to Bob Woodward.

January 22: “We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China. It’s going to be just fine.”

February 7: “It goes through air. That’s always tougher than the touch. You know, the touch, you don’t have to touch things [to get it], right? But the air, you just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed. And so that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flus . . . .This is more deadly.”7

February 10: “I think the virus is going to be–it’s going to be fine.”

February 26: “This is a flu. This is like a flu.”

March 4: “Now, and this is just my hunch, and–but based on a lot of conversations with a lot of people that do this. Because a lot people will have this and it’s very mild.”

March 7: “No, I’m not concerned at all.

March 19: I intended “to always play it down.”

March 30: “Stay calm, it will go away. You know it–you know it is going away, and it will go away, and we’re going to have a great victory.”

April 1: “They [governors] have to treat us well, also. They can’t say, ‘Oh, gee, we should get this, we should get that.’”

April 7: “So, you know, things are happening. It’s a–it’s–I haven’t seen bad. I’ve not seen bad.”

April 9: A reporter asked, could Trump’s coronavirus response have been better? “I couldn’t have done it any better.”

April 23: “I see the disinfectant that knocks it out in a minute, one minute. And is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside or almost a cleaning? As you see, it gets in the lungs, it does a tremendous number on the lungs, so it would be interesting to check that . . . . So, supposing we hit the body with a tremendous, whether its ultraviolet or just very powerful light, and I think you said, that hasn’t been checked but you’re gonna test it. And then I said, supposing it brought the light inside the body, which you can either do either through the skin or some other way . . .”

April 29: “It’s gonna go away, this is going to go away.”

May 8: “This is going to go away without a vaccine. It is going to go away. We are not going to see it again.”

June 15: “At some point this stuff goes away and it’s going away.”

June 23: “It’s going away.” Trump held a rally on this day in Phoenix, and one in Oklahoma three days earlier at which he “joked” that testing should be slowed down and then said he really doesn’t joke. He was reportedly “furious” about the low attendance of 6,200 as reported by the Tulsa fire department. And yet that small number of people gathered close together, never seeing the “Do Not Sit Here, Please” stickers that had been removed by his campaign staffers beforehand, still managed to spread the virus.8

July 7: “I think we are in a good place.”

July 28: Dr. Anthony Fauci has “got this high approval rating. So why don’t I have a high approval rating with respect–and the administration – with respect to the virus?” (Well, one hint might be that it took until July 11 for Trump to finally demonstrate the faintest hint of leadership on the virus when he wore a mask for the first time.9 And that faded fast; on Sept. 3, he was mocking Joe Biden for wearing a mask and claiming his doing so indicated psychiatric issues.10 This is our President talking like this.)

August 5: “It will go away like things go away”


  1. Much respect to Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) for showing some backbone and principle when he voted to hear witnesses, when he voted to convict Trump for crimes for which the evidence was overwhelming, and when he speaks out against Trump–all as the lone member of Congress (as far as I know, certainly the lone member of the Senate) from his entire party to do so. 

  2. “Trump commits to helping blue states fight the coronavirus if their governors are nice to him,” Vox, March 25, 2020. The article quotes Trump from an appearance on Fox News: “It’s a two-way street. They have to treat us well, also. They can’t say, ‘Oh, gee, we should get this, we should get that.’” 

  3. Seriously, just look it up. It’s all there for you with a simple web search, if you move past your usual right-wing safe media sources to see what’s actually going on. You may also come across a story about Trump deep-sixing the plans Jared Kushner came up for him to address the COVID-19 pandemic because, well, it was only (then) blue states who were getting hit. Gotta love all that “do unto others as you would have others do unto you” from our nation’s chief executive, huh?

    Please, look some stuff up about all this, honestly and openly, OK? It’s our country, and you need to be worrying about it, too. 

  4. “Trump: Americans Who Died in War Are ‘Losers’ and ‘Suckers’,” by Jeffrey Goldberg, The Atlantic, September 3, 2020. This article will horrify you if you just allow yourself to read it. Please go ahead; the country needs you to become informed about this man, and your refusal to do so would not make any of what he’s done any less true. 

  5. The items in the listing were selected and (except as otherwise indicated) copied from a comprehensive timeline table provided by Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX32) on his web site

  6. The image of the North face of the South Tower is a reduced-resolution thumbnail of one by Robert on Flickr: UA Flight 175 hits WTC south tower 9-11 edit.jpeg, CC BY-SA 2.0. To figure out where to insert the 65 copies of that image (65 x 2,977 = 193,505; close enough) in the timeline, I used the then-latest version of the file us.csv made freely available to the public by The New York Times with some basic arithmetic. Overall, the distribution of images I chose has the effect of rounding to the nearest image’s worth of deaths in between Trump statements. 

  7. “Trump acknowledged seriousness of COVID-19 privately to Bob Woodward in early February”, Thomson Reuters, September 9, 2020. The subheading under the article’s headline is, “Biden blasts Trump on latest revelation, calls it ‘a life and death betrayal’.” It ain’t just me saying this. 

  8. Wikipedia, 2020 Trump Tulsa rally. One person who very plausibly died as a result of that gathering was Herman Cain, a prominent Republican leader who “tested negative for the virus immediately before entering the rally,” tested positive nine days later, was hospitalized two days after that, and died on July 30. 

  9. “Trump wears mask in public for first time during visit to Walter Reed,” Politico July 12, 2020

  10. “Trump mocks Biden for wearing mask: ‘Did you ever see a man that likes a mask as much as him?’”, CNN, September 3, 2020. “Speaking to a largely mask-less crowd in Pennsylvania, Trump asked his supporters if they know ‘a man that likes a mask as much’ as Biden. ‘It gives him a feeling of security,’ the President said. ‘If I was a psychiatrist, I’d say this guy has some big issues.’” I wonder if any of the people he said this to in front of Air Force One will feel at all betrayed if they get sick with COVID-19?