Mike Matusow’s position on COVID is as mercurial as you might expect from the man whose moods swing faster than Phil Hellmuth’s in the early 2000s. He may have to update his views once again after coming down with the virus this week.
On July 10, he tweeted mask-free from the McGregor fight. Three days later he wrote: “Not sure if I’m gonna stream tonight as I got a fever and my entire body aches!”
His outrage at coming down with the virus after getting vaccinated should serve as a teachable moment.
Matusow might want to consider what his prognosis might have been without the vaccine. He is a 53-year-old man, out of shape, and with a history of drug abuse and medical complications. He is exceptionally high-risk.
Matusow is an impassioned but somewhat unlettered epidemiological commentator.
His position on the pandemic has ranged from panic—”in f**king 5 weeks if we don’t stop the curve it will be at 61m” (March 6, 2020)—to media conspiracy—”they’re celebrating covid being over not realizing it isn’t over until Nov 4th” (Oct 12, 2020)—to the idea the best way to support Trump is to get vaccinated.
He wrote about his vaccine: “Pretty absurd that I’ve left the house 6 times in 18 months am fully vaccinated and get covid! I have friends not even vaccinated go out every day since bs started and never got it!”
A few key facts about the virus
Matusow is understandably miffed that after getting fully vaccinated, he went out to a crowded fight and immediately caught COVID. His irritation comes from the misunderstanding that the vaccine’s primary use is to prevent infection. In fact, the efficacy stats that are quoted relate to serious outcomes.
The vaccine does provide some protection against infection, but its main benefit is keeping hospital beds empty and mortuaries from overflowing.
In the UK, 46 million people have received at least one dose of at least one vaccine (that’s 90% of the adult population). Even so, cases are still rising rapidly as the Delta variant burns through the population.
On June 1, 2021, the 7-day average was 3,441 new cases a day. Yesterday, it was 44,748. In that time the 7-day average death rate has also risen, from 7 per day to 40 yesterday. When the case rate was comparable on January 18, the corresponding death rate was 1,130 a day. The vaccine is clearly saving lives.
In the U.S., of the people who have had serious outcomes, only about 4,000 were vaccinated. Around 750 of these people died. Most were old and, worryingly, they were disproportionately women. The total number of U.S. deaths alone currently stands at around 625k since the pandemic began.
None of the stats above can tell a complete or uncomplicated story about the disease or the vaccine.
Matusow’s case is a reminder that despite the world opening up, we are still responsible for our own safety. That’s hard. Epidemiology is counter-intuitive and difficult. So as we return to something like normal, maybe err on the side of caution.
Masks are safety equipment, not a tool of oppression. Don’t be afraid to wear one even after this is over. I don’t want to catch your cold or halitosis anymore than I want the coronavirus. While it is still ongoing feel free to pop one on, even where it isn’t mandated.
Getting your jabs is a good idea for lowering your overall risk of contracting the disease, and of surviving if you get what is called a “breakthrough infection” despite the vaccination. But even vaccinated people can still reap the benefits of masks and regular hand-washing where possible.
Do your own research. I’m a poker journalist, and my degree in biochemistry is almost a decade old now. I highly recommend finding the work of actual epidemiologists to read on this topic. The WHO provides a lot of free advice in plain English, and so does the CDC.
But above all, get well soon, Mike.
Featured image source: Flickr by WPT