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Take a shot, join the herd

by Richard Mason | March 27, 2021 at 8:30 p.m.
Richard Mason

That’s right! With two shots and after three weeks, we feel bulletproof! Of course, we’re still wearing our masks just to keep from being a bad example to folks who haven’t had their shots, and I know there is still a 6% chance we could contract the virus, but almost no chance we would end up in the hospital. That’s why we’re starting to feel liberated, and we’re preparing to move out of our hunkered down mode. We are starting back to doing some of the things we had quit during the pandemic.

However, it seems we’re not the only ones who are starting to open up their lifestyles. Numerous states have started reducing their precautions, and that makes me consider where we are in conquering the pandemic. How big is the herd? When will it be totally over?

But before I give you my thoughts, let me make a slight confession: I am a natural born optimist, and it carries over into every part of my life. As a petroleum exploration geologist, I’m always very sure that the well we are about to drill will be a producer. I don’t think you could be a petroleum geologist and be a pessimist. You can always come up with a reason why a proposed well will be dry and you are usually right… most wells are dry holes.

So with that out of the way, let me explore my idea of herd projections, which I think are why the infections of Covid-19 are dropping. This is the point, where if you are a doctor reading this and have a problem with high blood pressure, you might should quit. That right, because I’m going to tread where laymen are not supposed to tread. Okay?

First off, according to the CDC, we have about 77,000,000 Americans who have at least one shot and two to three million folks a day are joining them to count as vaccinated. However, as just a layman observer, I think we have a lot more in the herd. First, what about the almost 30 million Americans who have had the virus and have recovered? Don’t they belong in the herd? I know there isn’t any scientific evidence that they are the same as vaccinated, but it seems to me that they got vaccinated the hard way by having the virus. Are the antibodies produced by the vaccine any different than what your body produces when you have the virus? Inquiring minds want to know. (My apologies to the National Inquirer.) Well, are they? If you can’t tell one antibody from the next one then we can group them together and add another 30,000,000 to the herd. That puts us well over 100,000,000 American in the herd, and we’re not through adding to the herd.

Next on the list are the hundreds of thousands or maybe millions of healthy individuals, especially the young, who had the virus and didn’t know it, and had just a runny nose or a slight sore throat. According to studies I have read, there are a lot of those healthy young or maybe not so young folks who have had the virus and weren’t tested. Okay? Well, let’s add them to the herd and this is really just a guess, but let say it’s another 15,000,000, which makes the herd around a hundred and twenty million. I would think that the addition of two to three million people a day getting vaccines probably is having an influence on the spread of the virus.

Well, how will we actually know the virus is on the way out? I think a good measure of that will be what happens during this Spring Break, which by all accounts, is a series of super-spreader events like the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. After all, the TV shots from bars and beaches in Florida and Texas show shoulder to shoulder unmasked college students, and the CDC says events such as these should spike the infection rate straight up, because, for the most part, all of the Spring Break folks are without masks and are unvaccinated. Or are they? If we don’t see a spike, then several things are possible. (1) There are a lot of recovered virus folks there. (2) The herd of vaccinated Americans is much larger than thought, and many of the young healthy students have had the virus and didn’t know it. We’ll have to wait and see.

In the meantime, and even after we get the Spring Break results, what should we do? Of course, the obvious is to get vaccinated when you are eligible. We must build the herd and getting the virus is the hard way. I know there are a lot of individuals who have decided not to be vaccinated and that’s their choice, but I counted the days until I was eligible because I figured being on a ventilator and dying would be a hell of a lot worse than any possible side-effects from getting vaccinated.

Vertis and I had very minor reactions to the vaccine. She had a slight sore arm and for about 12 hours had fatigue. I had a minor sore throat that lasted less than a day and a mild headache. However, contrast that with two healthy people in our family, Lara, our daughter and Coulter, her 20 something year old son. Coulter is about as healthy as they come, but he was, as most of the younger set is, more than a little causal in wearing a mask. COVID-19 bit him pretty badly with a loss of taste, smell, sore throat and general tiredness. His mother Lara, also in good health, had most of the same symptoms. They both missed work for nearly a week.

Now, let’s look ahead. From early partial studies, it seems fully vaccinated people don’t spread the virus. The studies aren’t complete, but there doesn’t seem to be much evidence that vaccinated people can spread the virus. Others in my vaccinated herd, the people who have contacted the virus and have recovered, also seem not to be the ones who spread the virus or get it the second time. There are only a few cases of a person getting the virus a second time.

So what should the average person do during this early stage of vaccinations, when it seems the mutated viruses are becoming more the normal spreader of COVID-19 and is more contagious? Of course, whether the herd is larger, as I have postulated, or just the vaccinated ones, the only way to completely stamp out COVID-19 is to get vaccinated or get the virus. I really don’t think that is a tough decision. If the vaccinations continue to ramp up, we could see the absolute end of the pandemic by the fourth of July, and completely open up the country.

It should be an easy choice for virtually everyone. Yours and everyone else’s wish is to return to pre-pandemic America, and the only sure way, with the least amount of hospitalizations and deaths, is to get vaccinated. Go take the shot!

Richard Mason is a registered professional geologist, downtown developer, former chairman of the Department of Environmental Quality Board of Commissioners, past president of the Arkansas Wildlife Federation, and syndicated columnist. Email [email protected]

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