General Course of the Pandemic
A number of issues have diverted attention from how many deaths and new cases we have. Baseball, basketball, and hockey are back. People who want to watch these have to stay at home. They will have less interest in knowing how much their health and livelihoods are threatened. Politics are heating up. Those who do not watch sports will tune in to news shows, and watching people say horrible things about each other is way much more fun than talking about masks. The return to schools has soaked up most of the patience that the country had in storage. Many institutions have had to close down within days after throwing their doors open. Who could have foreseen that? For the remaining 10% of the population, demonstrations, and assertions that riots are really not that bad, consume all of their energies. Doctors and health worries must come last.
That being said: Cases in Florida, Arizona, California, and Texas have leveled off; maybe even decreased a bit. The Deep South is still problematic. Missouri and Kansas are showing a disturbing upward trend.
On the international front: all of the “successful” countries, with the possible exception of China, are having a resurgence. Even Vietnam and New Zealand have resorted to sharply increased restrictions. Africa and the rest of the Americas continue to do poorly.
Governments and medical schools are paying more attention to the ravages that anxiety and depression have produced. (1)
We are doing less testing. It is unclear why this is happening. Contact tracing in most areas is nonexistent. We should be doing many studies to better understand how many people have developed antibodies, but I have not heard much about these efforts. It is clear that the current upsurge has been driven by younger people who feel that they are not threatened by Covid-19. Rates of positive tests in children have gone up. (2)
A recent comment in the New York Times says that children are not contagious. This piece drew a large block of negative reviews. (3)
Nanoantibodies are back in the news. Researchers have come up with an inhalable protein that neutralizes the Covid-19 spike protein. Human testing is nowhere near, but this provides nice reading and some optimism. (4)
In a recent interview with Businessweek, Bill Gates says that he is optimistic about the development of oral treatments.
The most exhaustive description of the current vaccine situation is in the current issue of Bloomberg Businessweek. It is very technical in places, and it is certainly lengthy, but if you have the time, go for it. It is accurate. (5) Nothing is mentioned that we have not covered in the past four months.
Maybe there was no way of avoiding tens of thousands of deaths.
The recurrence of viral infections in countries that did an excellent job controlling contagion gives me much pause. For a left-wing liberal like me, it serves as a reality check. We of the liberal mindset have been quick to condemn what was clearly (to us) government incompetence in the way this matter was handled. We are faced with stark evidence that even the places that we felt should have been emulated are having issues. Although these new “hot spots” do not come close to our level of “disasterhood,” we have to swallow hard and admit that this was never an easy fight. Most likely because this virus has not behaved like anything that we have dealt with in the past.
Maybe there was no way of avoiding tens of thousands of deaths. I still feel that the lockdown was needed, but only because it spread out the number of sick people over a longer time, thus avoiding a collapse of the hospital system. In retrospect, though, all of civilization had to suffer unspeakable pain. We knew years ago that something like this was coming.
Two mildly optimistic stories will end my comments for the week. Both appeared in The New York Times. Researchers in India believe that “herd immunity” may be reached when 50-60% of the population has been exposed, instead of the commonly held belief that it takes 80% or more. This only applies to areas where there is a lot of transmission, such as crowded conditions in low-income housing (6). There is another piece that speculates that immunity will last longer than a few weeks. Antibody levels and the number of “Killer T cells” have remained high in those who have been tested. (7)
Have a good week. Please feel free to share this article, and to direct your friends to my site.