[COLUMN] COVID-19, Putin-22

AS the pandemic continues to infect and kill people in the United States and around the world, Ukraine is ravaged not only by COVID-19 but by Russia’s Putin-22, a modern-day Hitler, a ruthless power-hungry land-grabber and murderer. The unprovoked attack has killed civilians, including children, in this Eastern European country with a population of 44.62 million, south of Belarus, and bordered by Russia on the east and northwest.

The bold, steadfast leadership and supreme courage of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky have heartened and emboldened his people, including old men and women and teenagers (as families) to fight the superior, well-armed, Russian invaders, many Ukrainians with Molotov cocktails only (a brilliant strategy), some with kitchen knives, as their weapons to protect their country.

Zelensky had inspired the whole world with his love of country and resolute bravery, insisting on staying in his office, risking his life, ready to personally join the battle, arm-to-arm with his people and other Ukrainian officials, against the Russian tanks and soldiers marching towards the capital city, Kyiv, as the world watches with anxiety, admiration, pride, solemn joy, compassion, and prayers for Zelensky and his people. All nations of goodwill must support this bitter struggle of the Ukrainian people, and get rid of Putin, who is now threatening “any country meddling in his invasion of Ukraine” with his “nuclear option,” which could endanger the entire planet.

Indeed, Vladimir Putin must be stopped now and charged with a crime against humanity and be brought to justice before the Hague Tribunal, to serve as a warning to all other brutal tyrants and potential invaders around the globe. Still undefeated and undeterred, Zelensky, the David, deserves a Nobel Peace Prize, while despot Putin, the crazy Goliath, owns the condemnation of the world. Nuclear Putin is potentially much worse than all the COVID-19 variants in this pandemic combined.

The mental health and emotional toll of Putin’s savage aggression, besides the dislocation and displacement of 600,000 Ukrainians so far (possibly 4 million more), and the mounting deaths caused by Putin’s army on these loyal, brave, and proud people, whose love for their country and democracy is truly heart-warming, need our compassion and prayers.

In the meantime, these are the COVID-19 statistics as of Tuesday, March 1, 2022, at 4:14 PM (EST): Globally: 438,100,391 cases, deaths – 5,980582; U.S.: 80,665,325 cases, deaths – 976,171; the Philippines: 3,663,059 cases, deaths – 56,451; Ukraine: 4,809,624 cases, deaths – 105,505; Russia: 16,495,369 cases, deaths – 352,446.

Omicron deaths

Omicron (BA.1), and its subvariant, Stealth Omicron (BA.2), are milder but not mild and should not be confused as non-killers. Almost 4,000 COVID-19 deaths were reported in the United States on Wednesday, February 23, 99.8 percent of them suspected as caused by Omicron by the U.S. CDC, and around 69-74% a month before.

Stealth Omicron, after more than 50 mutations in the bodies of the unvaccinated, and which has been found in all 50 U.S. states, is considered to be 30 percent more contagious, perhaps more lethal too, than Omicron, which is still dominant in many countries. In Denmark and South Africa, the BA.2 is the dominant variant, between 80-90 percent.

The UK Health Security Agency (HSA) reported on February 25 that BA.2 accounted for 30.5 percent of its cases the previous week, which was only 4.1 percent in January. UK found no evidence of increased risk of hospitalization with BA.2 compared with Omicron, and that the vaccines are effective for both and for other past variants. Studies revealed that there was 67 percent effectiveness against symptomatic BA.2 infection two weeks after a booster shot.

Florida reported 131,699 cases and 1,324 deaths from Stealth Omicron in the first week of February. This subvariant also has the ability to reinfect those who already had the Omicron infection in the past, as shown in dozens of cases in Denmark.

In the United States, COVID-19 infections continue to flatten out. The U.S. CDC revealed the 7-day moving average of new cases was 68,815 on February 15, plunging from 105, 794 the week before. There are almost a million deaths in the United States so far.

For seniors, especially with health issues (COPD, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, kidney illness, etc.), people who are immunocompromised, and those with severe allergies, are still at high risk to get sick with breakthrough infections. We cannot let our guard down yet. It’s too premature. The virus is still replicating and mutating in the bodies of those millions of unvaccinated people in the United States, and churning out new, possibly more serious strains.

New subvariant H78Y

The Stealth subvariant of Omicron had “spawned a potentially deadlier subvariant” of its own, H78Y, found in Denmark, making up about 30 percent of its cases a few weeks ago, now diving to around 1 percent of the cases, perhaps because more than 81.6 of the people are fully vaccinated.

Those who are fully vaccinated, or those who had COVID-19 infection before, could still be infected or re-infected (breakthrough infections and reinfection by new variants and subvariants that are still not identified). After an infection, one is immune only to the infecting variant, but not to other variants.

Health news capsules

SARS-CoV-2 was likely present in live mammals sold at a Wuhan wet market in late 2019, where it then spread to humans shopping and working there, scientists concluded in a pair of reports totaling 150 pages, according to the New York Times. This seems to clear the mystery around the origin of SARS-CoV2 virus of COVID-19.

A New Hampshire hospital received hundreds of harassing phone calls and a bomb threat from a group called “The Truth Seekers,” whose members demanded that a COVID-19 patient there receive ivermectin, per the Washington Post. Ivermectin, like hydroxychloroquine, has been found to be effective against COVID-19.

Scientists around the world believe “that many countries lifting protective measures against SARS-CoV2 have increased the spread and contributed to more mutations.” Many states in the U.S. are beginning to unmask and do away with social distancing, which is premature.

Together with more than 3,700 other scientists, leading experts in the United Kingdom posted an open letter “criticizing Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to end all protective measures against COVID-19, warning that increased and uncontrolled SARS-CoV-2 transmission would bring new risks.”

Indeed, we still need to be careful, vigilant, and patient. We are almost at the finish line.

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The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the Asian Journal, its management, editorial board and staff.

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Philip S. Chua, MD, FACS, FPCS, a Cardiac Surgeon Emeritus based in Northwest Indiana and Las Vegas, Nevada, is an international medical lecturer/author, a Health Public Advocate, and Chairman of the Filipino United Network-USA, a 501(c)3 humanitarian and anti-graft foundation in the United States. Visit our websites: philipSchua.com and FUN8888.com    Email: scalpelpen@gmail.com

Dr. Philip S. Chua

Philip S. Chua, MD, FACS, FPCS, Cardiac Surgeon Emeritus in Northwest Indiana and chairman of cardiac surgery from 1997 to 2010 at Cebu Doctors University Hospital, where he holds the title of Physician Emeritus in Surgery, is based in Las Vegas, Nevada. He is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, the Philippine College of Surgeons, and the Denton A. Cooley Cardiovascular Surgical Society. He is the chairman of the Filipino United Network – USA, a 501(c)(3) humanitarian foundation in the United States.

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