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OPINION | MASTERSON ONLINE: Seeking truth in covid mess

by Mike Masterson | August 14, 2021 at 3:16 a.m.

If you're anything like me, you've probably endured enough contradictory covid-19 news and flagrant hypocrisy from elected officials to last several lifetimes, so I'll keep the following relevant details from a Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) analysis brief.

Make of this as you will any other account of the covid scourge and its latest highly contagious Delta variant. Things have reached the point of confusion and suspect credibility where most of us don't know where to look to find actual truth about the virus.

Mask or not? Double mask? At school? Boosters for elderly? Do we follow masking rules from narcissistic elected "public servants" whose arrogance places them above their own edicts?

Perhaps most significant: Is the covid-19 virus prepared to continue mutating for years?

After a recent review of official websites in all states and D.C., as well as other official sources, the KFF analysis found that half of states (25) have now report some data on covid-19 " breakthrough" events in which the vaccinated still contract and spread the virus.

Among those, 15 states release such data on a weekly basis and one reports daily, while the other nine report more infrequently.

That said, KFF's analysis showed: "The rate of breakthrough cases reported among those fully vaccinated is well below 1 percent in all reporting states, ranging from 0.01 percent in Connecticut to 0.29 percent in Alaska."

According to the data, breakthrough cases are extremely rare among the fully vaccinated. Hospitalization rates among the fully vaccinated in reporting states range from 0.06 percent in Arkansas to effectively zero in California, Delaware, D.C., Indiana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Vermont, and Virginia.

Arkansas and Michigan death rates from breakthrough infections stood at 0.01 percent while other states were effectively zero. More than nine in 10 covid cases, hospitalizations, and deaths occurred among people who are unvaccinated or not yet fully vaccinated.

Finally, KFF found that the share of covid-19 cases among those not fully vaccinated ranged from 94.1 percent in Arizona to 99.85 percent in Connecticut.

Again, valued readers, take this information for what you believe it's worth and decide what anticipated risk is acceptable to avoid hospitalization or worse to you, your family, friends and loved ones.

Treating those stings

Valued readers who digested my column about wasp attacks were quick to respond with helpful suggestions for alleviating the pain, swelling and itching if you're stung.

Mike Keller said that for years he has used a hair dryer turned to hot and applied the heat directly to the stings for as long as you can stand. Do that initially and twice the following day. "It works," he said. "In fact, that kind of treatment has proven itself to me time and time again throughout my life. All pain, itching and swelling is gone within two days."

Lois Zachary wrote to tell me that years ago while at a church picnic, wasps stung her daughter some 15 times across her back. An adult at the scene grabbed his cigarettes, broke them apart, wet the tobacco, then spread it on the stings across her back.

"Within, I'd say, about 30 minutes, the only signs of stings were little holes in her back, no swelling or itching," she said.

"In later years my husband and I bought a spring-fed lake for swimming. We kept a pack of cigarettes in the ticket booth at all times, because it works! I hope this information helps."

Between the hair dryer trick and tobacco, I'm betting both are proven effective.

Hurricane season 2021

We're in the midst of hurricane season, throwing a wrench into the best-laid plans of beachgoers desperately seeking vacation time.

I recall a couple of years ago when Hurricane Michael and I squared off during our October stay in Orange Beach, Ala. I stood on the beach warning him not to bring his destruction ashore anywhere near our location.

And he obviously became intimidated since he veered dead right at the last hours of his approach to instead slam into the Florida Coast. Sorry, Florida. Nothing personal.

Respected hurricane scientist Bill Pekny says in 360 Magazine that so far the season is active, but not unprecedented.

"These days there is a lot of unwarranted fear that these types of storms are getting more frequent and more severe," says Pekny, who wrote "A Tale of Two Climates: One Real, One Imaginary."

"This is a misconception driven by the fact that we measure storms in terms of economic damage," explaining that we insist on building more and more expensive homes, hotels, and resorts in high-risk coastal areas so when these powerful storms make landfall, they create more property damage with astronomical price tags. This means the real culprit is increasing development rather than more hurricanes. "People just conflate these two issues," he says.

The experimental reality Penky refers to is that hurricanes in the North Atlantic basin (the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico areas) aren't trending worse in frequency or intensity over "climatological" (30-year) time scales; the same is true globally. The EPA concluded, "Hurricanes have not become more numerous in recent years." The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change data indicate "no increasing trend in tropical cyclone or hurricane numbers."

Pekny, 360 reports, says storms have always intrigued him. "As a young scientist back in 1969, I had the truly unique experience of flying into the teeth of one as a RADAR meteorologist/crew member with the renowned U.S. Navy Hurricane Hunters," he said. Pekny says that despite great strides in the weather-tracking and measuring technology, not a lot has changed with respect to the storms themselves.

Worth watching

A valued reader wrote to inquire which streaming movies and series we watched that were head and shoulders above the mindless and predictable violence, sex and special effects that pervade Hollywood offerings nowadays.

I advised them to watch the true stories "Blue Miracle" and "Wish Man," along with the series "Queen of the South" and the always entertaining "Bosch." All were compelling, well-acted and enjoyable ... even if we did have to pop our own corn.

Come get yours

Last chance to receive my free CD "Rhythms of Life from a Southern Journalist," featuring 14 of my favorite timeless columns guaranteed to cure insomnia and make you smile.

Just need $5 to cover expenses of getting it to you: 1002 West Bunn Ave., Harrison, AR 72601.

Now go out into the world and treat everyone you meet exactly like you want them to treat you.

Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist, was editor of three Arkansas dailies and headed the master's journalism program at Ohio State University. Email him at

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