Just over two years ago WHO declared a pandemic. Their official count of global dead is 6,027,059.

The Lancet, however, suggest a much higher number of 18 million.

And the Economist has calculated what it believes is a truer estimate: 20 million.

Whichever estimate you trust, that’s a lot of people. Especially when you consider that cases are, once again, beginning to rise.

This pandemic is not over. Every time some local, regional, or national authority says, Hey, don’t worry about your masks, another tranche of vulnerable people will die, and another will sink further into bitterness and isolation knowing they have been moved to the Acceptable Losses column, again; that no one cares; that 99.9% of the nondisabled population of earth would, in fact, rather be able to go watch a movie without a mask than go to a minor inconvenience for two hours than help the woman with an impaired immune system who has been mewed up her tiny apartment for two years. Who now can’t even go to the fucking grocery store. Your two hours of trivial inconvenience versus two years of her life. Two. Fucking. Years. And counting.

People really piss me off sometimes.

Consider this, too. A significant percentage of those who get Covid—whether barely symptomatic or in intensive care; the severity doesn’t matter—will go on to develop Long Covid. How many? We don’t know. Why don’t we know? Because it’s only been two years and we don’t even really have a hard definition of “Long Covid.” But best guesses, trying to compare apples to oranges to fucking potatoes, suggest 10-30%.

Now, go look at those WHO numbers again, this time the left hand side; the official number of total cases of Covid so far: 452,052,304. And you know they are off by a factor of at least three. So rounding the WHO figures down to 452m (because frankly the calculator app on my phone won’t deal with long numbers), and going from super-conservative (using WHO numbers and only 10% get Long Covid) to deeply alarmist (multiply WHO by 3.5 and assume 30% will develop Long Covid) and the number range is 45.2 million — 546 million. And holy shit, suddenly we’re talking about 7% of the global population.

Now, just in case you haven’t been keeping up, Long Covid is a disabling condition. It’s not just a bit of tiredness, or a few aches and pains. It’s a multi-system attack: brain, endocrine system, connective tissue, heart, lungs, overall metabolism. We don’t yet know if for some people it gradually wears off, or whether after another two years you suddenly die, or at some simply mutate into a giant galactic tapeworm, but given other post-viral syndromes we’re aware of (some of us more intimately than others)1 my guess is that it will linger and linger and essentially be not only permanently disabling but also lead to a significant reduction in lifespan. We are walking towards a massive demographic bomb.

So, yeah, think twice, please, before you throw away your mask. And then think again.

1 In February of 1989 I went down with what felt like flu—but wasn’t—and was wickedly unwell for about 10 days. And I never really recovered. I got a diagnosis of post-viral syndrome, then myalgic encephalomyelitis, then chronic fatigue and immune dysfunction syndrome, and finally multiple sclerosis. I have not held paid employment since 1989—m health and energy levels are simply too erratic. Then of course there’s polio and post-polio syndrome. So when I say ‘disabling,’ i really mean it.