Where We Are with COVID

Where We Are with COVID September 15, 2021

Where are we with the COVID pandemic?  Is it winding down or getting worse?  Does the Delta variant and the prospect of other mutations mean that we should implement a never-ending lockdown?

“The Science,” spoken of as a single authority giving indubitable answers, doesn’t really know and is giving many contradictory answers.

And yet, we can be confident in some larger, time-tested facts, that pandemics eventually come to an end, as “pandemic” diseases become “endemic”; that is, they lessen in severity and become just regular sicknesses that flesh is heir to.

Marc Fisher has written an informative article on this subject for the Washington Post, which is being reprinted elsewhere.

I especially appreciated the comments he cites from med school professor and infectious disease expert Monica Gandhi, who offers a different kind of take on the question.

From Marc Fisher in the Washington PostThe COVID endgame: Is the pandemic over already? Or are there years to go? (my bolds):

“I truly, truly think we are in the endgame,” said Monica Gandhi, an infectious-disease specialist and professor of medicine at the University of California at San Francisco. “The cases will start plummeting in mid-to-late September and by mid-October, we will be in a manageable place, where the virus is a concern for health professionals, but not really for the general public.”

Gandhi bases her optimism on the fact that all previous epidemics of respiratory viruses have ended through the acquisition of immunity, whether by vaccination or natural infection. Although viruses do keep changing, potentially circumventing people’s defenses, “they mutate quickly, at a cost to themselves,” weakening over time. Gandhi said she believes the delta variant that has hit the United States so hard this summer will mark the peak of this virus’s strength. . . .

Gandhi, too, has concluded that as scary and dangerous as the delta variant has been, “we’re sort of at the peak of the pandemic because the delta variant is causing immunity like crazy. Delta comes in like a hurricane, but it leaves a lot of immunity in its wake.”

Although its rapid spread and severe impact on some people are scary, the delta version has a hidden benefit: It makes future variants less likely to be more lethal, Gandhi said.

COVID isn’t going away — “we’re going to get it,” Gandhi said — but as immunity increases, the virus will cause less harm. People will come to terms with it as they have with the common cold or the flu.

“Unless you just sit in your room, you’re going to get it in your nose,” she said, “but at least in this country, it will be manageable.”

The big problem now, Gandhi said, is fear, “excessive fear of the pandemic on both sides,” she said. “Democrats overestimate the death rate and Republicans underestimate it.

That produces the psychological and political hurdles that are preventing a return to normal life, she said.

Not all of the experts quoted in the article are this optimistic, but her bad news/good news assessment of the Delta strain makes sense.  Lots of people are getting infected, but the more who get infected and recover, which is the vast majority of cases, the more immunity the population has.  And she is surely right that what is paralyzing us today are “the psychological and political hurdles” due to our political polarization.

We will see if her prediction that cases will plummet later this month holds true.  That kind of prediction, unlike many others we keep hearing, is verifiable.

We are already at the middle of September and cases are still high.  Here is an alternative, pessimistic analysis.

What do you think will happen?


Image by Lothar Dieterich from Pixabay


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