“Noon the fifth day, Mr. Hooper, a Lockheed Ventura saw us, he swung in low and he saw us. Young pilot, a lot younger than Mr. Hooper; anyway, he saw us and come in low and three hours later, a big fat PBY comes down and start to pick us up. Y’know, that was the time I was most frightened, waitin’ for my turn.” ~ Robert Shaw as Quint in “Jaws,” 1975
The quote above from the movie “Jaws” was given by actor Robert Shaw who portrayed Quint, a survivor of the USS Indianapolis, the ship during WWII in July 1945 that was torpedoed and sunk en route from Guam to Leyte. A reported 880 U.S. sailors and Marines died; only 316 survived. Quint spoke of his fellow shipmates trying to survive in the ocean as sharks surrounded them and they never knew who would be next attacked. As a plane flew overhead and rescue seemed so close, he recalled that was the time he was “most frightened.”
That feeling of rescue being so near as more and more sharks circle seems a perfect metaphor for today’s pandemic world. The vaccine rescue is in sight but COVID-19 is not only still circling but the positive numbers are increasing and more “sharks,” or variants, are now appearing as we all wait for rescue.
One in five people in Los Angeles County has tested positive for COVID-19. As of Tuesday, LA County confirmed 11,071 deaths due to COVID-19, and a total of 840,611 positive cases. As of Tuesday alone there were 13,512 new cases of COVID-19 and 224 new deaths due to the virus.
“LA County has experienced more than 1,000 new COVID-19 deaths in less than a week when on Dec. 30, Public Health reported 10,056 deaths,” according to LA County Public Health.
In March 2020 during the shut down resulting from the Safer At Home Ordinance, people appeared to listen and remained home. When COVID-19 numbers decreased public places began to open back up but then many, like restaurants, were shut down again as numbers increased.
The streets that were almost completely empty during the March 2020 shut down are a little more populated now during the current shut down but things are not anywhere near normal. That is because the virus is still spreading in Los Angeles at an alarming rate with new and even more contagious strains being found throughout the world including in California.
“Viruses constantly change through mutation, and new variants of a virus are expected to occur over time. Sometimes new variants emerge and disappear. Other times, new variants emerge and persist. Multiple variants of the virus that cause COVID-19 have been documented in the United States and globally during this pandemic. Multiple COVID-19 variants are circulating globally. In the United Kingdom (UK), a new variant has emerged with an unusually large number of mutations. This variant seems to spread more easily and quickly than other variants. Currently, there is no evidence that it causes more severe illness or increased risk of death,” according to the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention].
This variant was first detected in September 2020 in England and has now been detected in several countries, including the U.S. This strain has been found in San Diego and Big Bear.
There is another similar strain that was discovered in South Africa and Nigeria, and it appears this strain spreads more easily and quickly than other variants; however, there is no evidence that it causes more severe illness or an increased risk of death, according to the CDC.
COVID fatigue is something that many people are facing as they are just tired of being isolated and following even basic safety guidelines like wearing a face mask and practicing social distancing. It is obvious though that now is not the time to relax safeguards. There are numerous stories of families who had remained isolated but then, during the holidays, thought it would be safe for them to gather only to find themselves testing positive for COVID-19 days later and, in some cases, with fatal consequences.
“LA County reached the terrible milestone of more than 11,000 deaths due to COVID-19. As a community, we must commit to stopping the spread of COVID-19 in its tracks so that we can save as many lives as possible. Roll out for the COVID-19 vaccine continues in the phases recommended by the state and CDC as supply allows,” said Barbara Ferrer, director of LA County Public Health. “And while vaccines are a powerful tool, we do not need to wait for vaccine to stop new COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and death. We can do that now. It takes every business and every resident to purposefully follow public health directives and safety measures. Please stay home and leave only for essential work or essential services.”
The vaccine has arrived and although the number of those vaccinated is lower than expected, and wanted, first responders and the elderly in nursing homes are getting the shots. This will be followed by essential workers and the general public.
So even though the rescue plane is in sight it is not time to take off our life vests.