Viruses are strange, which is what makes them so dangerous.
First, experts describe them as “organisms at the edge of life” because they share some characteristics with living organisms, but lack others. They do not reproduce on their own. Simplistically, they invade a living cell and force the cell to produce hundreds or thousands of copies of the virus based on the virus’s RNA or DNA.
And they mutate.
One way to think about mutation is to compare it to copying a photograph. The first copy may look reasonably good, although when you place the original and the copy you may notice some differences. If you make a copy of the copy and then repeat, each generation looks less like the original. A similar thing occurs with viruses. That’s why each year the pharmaceutical companies need to prepare a different vaccine in preparation for the flu season. Much of the time, their projections are accurate, but some times the influenza strain that predominates is totally different from what they expected.
Another bad thing about viruses is that the treatment options are limited. Some medical professionals say that if they treat the patient, the patient will be better in a week. If they don’t, the patient will be better in seven days. There is an element of truth to that.
The COVID-19 virus has mutated into a more virulent form. People who have been vaccinated may carry the virus, usually with mild or no symptoms. Although they may not feel sick, they not only carry the virus, but also shed it, potentially infecting those who have not been vaccinated. This includes children too young for the vaccine and those who are immunocompromised, such as those who have received an organ transplant, those who have an autoimmune disease, and those who are undergoing radiation or chemotherapy. This is why masks are once again recommended, even for those who have been vaccinated.
Masks would not be necessary if the virus hadn’t mutated.
The COVID-19 virus, like all viruses, cannot reproduce itself. In most cases it needs an unvaccinated host and useS the hosts cells to reproduce. As long as there are a sufficient number of unvaccinated people it will continue to replicate and, inevitably mutate. We currently know of two mutations, identified as delta and lambda.
Some people point out that there was confusing guidance in the past, decreasing their confidence in current medical advice. When COVID-19 first appeared, it was often referred to as a novel disease, meaning there was little or nothing known about it because it was new. This meant that scientists were forced to try something and see if it worked. If it didn’t work, try something else. Science is a process, not a collection of facts.
Among the ways that viruses can be spread are by droplets or aerosols from a cough, sneeze, or even just talking. Prior to COVID-19, it was widely believed that anything larger than 5 microns could not be spread by aerosol, only droplets. Droplets have a limited range of about six feet, after which they drop and settle on surfaces. Given that the coronavirus is larger than 5 microns, the advice was to maintain the six-foot social distance, clean surfaces, and wash hands frequently. This was a reasonable approach until it was proven that the 5-micron rule was invalid, after which the use of masks was seen as the best protection.
So today, the advice is to get the vaccine to protect yourself and to deny the virus a breeding ground. Wearing a mask provides you with another level of protection and helps protect those around you.
It’s confusing, but as we got more data, it altered our response. It’s inevitable that we will collect even more data, which may alter our response once again. Following the advice is far, far better than experiencing COVID. Trust me on this.