If you’re an older Alaskan and you’re not doing your best to hide from the SARS-CoV-2 virus these days, you haven’t been paying attention.
The seven-day moving average for infections that develop into the disease Covid-19 is now falling from its peak of nearly 1,300 a month ago, according to the Worldometer tracker, but at 673 per day as of Saturday, the Alaska rate is still 50 to 60 times higher than back in the spring of 2020 when the state was in lockdown.
No matter how old you are, you likely remember how terrified many were then.
Still, the latest pandemic infection rate isn’t the most important number coming from the state of Alaska. The death number is far more important.
And it pretty clearly says Alaska has become the proverbial no place for old men, and it isn’t much better for old women.
- Nearly three-quarters of those hospitalized – 72 percent – are over the age of 50 and more than half of those – 54 percent – are over age 60.
- Almost nine out of 10 of the dead – 88 percent – are over age 50 and more than three-quarters of those – 77 percent – over age 60.
- More than half – 55 percent – of those hospitalized are men, and almost two-thirds of the dead – 61 percent – are male.
All of this is in a state where the population of old folks, while growing, still makes up a relatively small part of the population. Those over age 60 comprise only 16 percent of Alaskans and that only increases to a little over a quarter – 28 percent – of the general population when you add in the 50 to 59s.
Twenty-eight percent of the population accounts for 88 percent of the deaths.
Suffice to say, the number of hospitalizations and deaths among the old folk is way out of proportion with their numbers, but this should come as no surprise.
Anyone can catch Covid-19, as the mainstream media has been hyping since the beginning of the pandemic, but the reality is that the disease poses the greatest threat to the old and those with co-morbidities or what used to be more often called “chronic diseases” – heart disease, diabetes and various cancers chief among them.
- Tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke
- Poor nutrition, including diets low in fruits and vegetables and high in sodium and saturated fats
- Lack of physical activity
- Excessive alcohol use
Fit and surviving
The third item on that list – physical activity – has been pointed out as a factor in Covid-19 deaths almost since the beginning of the pandemic.
Obesity, which is visually obvious to everyone, has become the linchpin identifier for a general lack of fitness, but British researchers were reporting as far back as the summer of 2020 that lack of physical fitness appeared to be even more important.
They mined the country’s Biobank, a storehouse for medical records, for data on “walking pace,” which is generally considered a reasonable measure of fitness.
Fit people almost always walk faster than the unfit.
The Brits found 400,000 records on walking pace and reported discovering that “slow walkers had the highest risk of severe COVID-19 regardless of obesity status. For example, compared to normal weight brisk walkers, the odds of severe Covid-19 in obese brisk walkers was 1.39, whereas the odds in normal weight slow walkers was 2.48.”
Lack of functional fitness, they concluded, “appears to be a risk factor for severe COVID-19 that is independent of obesity.”
Those at the lowest risk of hospitalization or death from Covid-19 are, of course, fit people of healthy weight. They also appear to be those with the lowest risk of “long Covid,” as it has been called, after catching the disease.
“Long COVID was characterized by symptoms of fatigue, headache, dyspnea and anosmia and was more likely with increasing age and body mass index and female sex,” an international team of researchers reported in a peer-reviewed study in Nature Medicine back in May.
There’s that nasty body mass index (BMI) issue rearing its head again. If you’re an older Alaskan, Covid-19 already poses more of a risk to you than to your younger friends, and if you’re an older Alaska wrestling with your weight (as many of us are), you’re just doubling down on the risk.
People can debate vaccines until hell freezes over, and there are people who are simply and philosophically opposed to injecting chemicals or any kinds of medical treatments into their bodies.
All of us should respect that. They are also a minority.
Most of the Baby Boomers who grew up with drugs, sex, and rock and roll have already injected into their bodies or swallowed a lot of things including some things – like LSD – once labeled extremely dangerous.
The mRNA vaccines that are cutting the odds of a serious Covid-19 infection by 50 to 75 percent are indeed new and experimental. They might even have long-term consequences of which even the best scientists are unaware because not even the best scientists can predict the future.
But the long-term isn’t that long for those 50 and over. Most are already closer to the end than the beginning. For those age 50 today, the strange journey called life is, on average, 70 percent done, according to the life expectancy charts.
The percentage just grows for every year over 50. The numbers are better for women, but not that much.
With or without Covid-19, they are on the downward slope. It’s a lot different for the younger age groups on which Covid-19 hasn’t taken nearly the same toll.
About 60 percent of those now coming down with COVID-19 in Alaska are under the age of 40, according to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. This is part of the national trend, and these people are fairing far better than older Americans.
Nationally, the U.S. Centers of Disease Control uses the 18 to 29 age group as its baseline for assessing the risks of death from COVID-19. It has reported slightly more than 7.8 million infections in that group and 3,959 deaths.
That puts the risk of dying at 0.05 percent, which is not much higher than the overall risk of death from flu among all Americans in a bad year for flu.
Unfortunately, the flu – like Covid-19 – doesn’t like old people or those already suffering from chronic diseases. So age-related deaths for flu are higher for flu just as they are for Covid-19, but not nearly to the same extreme.
If someone in this age group becomes infected, and if the infection develops into COVID-19 (some 40 to 60 percent of the infected remain free of symptoms), the risk of dying is about 0.2 percent.
Thus, in gambling terms, the odds are about 99.8 percent or – 499 in 500 – that you’ll survive.
They are, of course, lower if you are already suffering from a so-called “co-morbidity” – diabetes, cancer, obesity or other. But it’s at ages over 40 that the disease really starts to get dangerous for most people.
Compared to that baseline group, the CDC puts the risks at:
- 10 times greater for those 40 to 49.
- 30 times greater for those 50 to 64.
- 90 times greater 65 to 74.
- 220 times greater for those 75 to 84.
- And a staggering 570 times greater for those over 85.
What Alaska is witnessing now is these multipliers in action.
Do the math: If you’re in that 65 and over age group with a 90-times greater chance of dying from Covid-19 than those age 18 to 29, how much difference does a 5 percent shift make?
The reality is that it pretty much gets lost in the statistical noise.
If you’re older, the safest thing to do today is what was the safest thing to do when lockdown was ordered: stay away from other people.
And be thankful there has been no government edict ordering a lockdown on old folks, which – if one really wanted to deal with Covid-19 – might be a more sensible thing to do than order masking.