Some of us are feeling a great sense of validation now...almost smug, if the situation wasn't too serious for smugness. We put up with jeers, sneers, denials, and ridicule for all these months, and now it seems we were right all along. It does feel good to see the powers that be finally admit they were wrong.

What, you think I mean the election? No, I mean this: Coronavirus Was In U.S. Weeks Earlier Than Previously Known, Study Says

Those of us who had the rotten thing before February and knew it wasn't "just the flu" at least don't have to put up with abuse from self-righteous "realists" now. Mind you, I would not want to have it again. I'll get the vaccine! It was just...weird, and very unpleasant. I probably picked it up at a big convention in Boston in January--held at the Westin Boston Waterfront, only a few blocks from the now-notorious Biogen conference. I'm sure many other people went home with it, too. A lot of us were walking around with COVID last winter, thinking it must be a very bizarre flu, because who knew? Even when COVID was identified, for the first several months it was almost impossible to get a test. If you didn't get sick enough to be hospitalized, you didn't matter.

This is important, because it shows how the virus spread so fast after it was finally recognized. It didn't spread from "patient zero," it was already all over the place. That missing information changes a lot of assumptions, including how contagious the virus is and what the biggest vectors are for transmission. These are the key assumptions on which effective measures should have been based. The fact that people who had milder cases weren't being listened to or taken seriously allowed COVID to spread much farther than it would have with earlier intervention.

Health care workers are hastening to say that even if you had COVID, and have antibodies, "that doesn't mean you're immune" and we all still need to follow guidelines. I'm following them, but I have to wonder why we have such hopes for a vaccine if antibodies don't confer immunity. That's what vaccines DO, make you create antibodies! I'm guessing that health care workers don't want to add to the many stupid and self-serving excuses for not wearing a mask already out there. Unfortunately, they're twisting science to support their message. No way that could backfire, right?

But that's typical of the contradictory and constantly changing messages that Americans have been getting since the very start. It's these wildly flip-flopping messages that put us in the situation we're in. We don't really have "COVID fatigue." We have whiplash from following all the changes in directives, and "numbers fatigue" from the way information keeps on being reframed.

Seriously--who, besides an epidemiologist or a Ph.D statistician, can make sense of the numbers, charts, graphs and "trends" being churned out by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts? I was trying to keep up with them in the Courier, and I am now completely lost. Governor Baker wants the schools to stay open and the state to "get back to normal" (as per his hashtag #GetBackMass). A couple of weeks ago, the numbers were all changed, breaking continuity with previous reports and making it appear that far fewer communities in the state were "red" or high-risk.

Now the numbers are being updated later and later in the week so I can't be sure of getting them before the Courier's deadline. Now, I admit that the Courier's deadline is not the concern of Governor Baker...but I've also noticed that it's no longer easy to find the latest COVID numbers on the front page of the Boston Globe, like it had been for months. You really have to hunt for them now and that's changed in just the last couple of weeks.

I am not so paranoid that I believe the numbers given aren't accurate. But as a writer, I believe that communication which isn't clear and straightforward is waste of time and space. And I know enough science to be aware of how much we don't know, and to be wary of absolute statements based on incomplete data. Right from the start, everything printed, posted or said about COVID-19 was based on incomplete data. Minds, like nature, can't stand a vacuum, especially in crisis. The lack of real information allowed for a lot of moronic conspiracy theory nonsense (like the "Plandemic" farce) to rush into the gap. It also had authorities giving contradictory advice. It's no wonder some people gave up on wearing masks, with all the conflicting information that was put out last spring.

Now we just have to ride this new wave wherever it goes. At least now we know that masks work and we should wear them. Winchendon is getting a bit careless about that, I've noticed. The next 14 days will show whether all the travel and gatherings for Thanksgiving have spread the virus even more. It appears that in this new surge, the rate of hospitalizations and deaths has increased far less than the increase in cases. That may be because most cases are in younger people now.

Stay healthy, everyone, wear your masks (over your mouth and your nose), and stay safe. We all want to be home for Christmas.

Inanna Arthen