Scientists: Covid-19 is here to stay

Impatient Americans want to know when the Covid-19 pandemic will be behind us and life will return to normal. They won’t like the answer.

Scientists are increasingly skeptical it will ever end.

“A new consensus is emerging among scientists … that SARS-CoV-2 will not only remain with us as an endemic virus, continuing to circulate in communities, but will likely cause a significant burden of illness and death for years to come,” Reuters reported on Wednesday, March 3, 2021, based on “interviews with 18 specialists who closely track the pandemic or are working to curb its impact.”

The reason? The Covid-19 virus is mutating (what experts call “variants”). There are now U.K., South African, and Brazilian variants, plus a couple emerging in the U.S. The bottom line: Even with vaccines, precautions remain necessary.

“Even after vaccination, ‘I still would want to wear a mask if there was a variant out there,’ Dr. Anthony Fauci … said in an interview. ‘All you need is one little flick of a variant (sparking) another surge, and there goes your prediction’ about when life gets back to normal,” he told Reuters.

This won’t sit well with the deniers and anti-maskers, who all along have contributed to spreading the infection, and some of whom are now stone-cold dead and six feet under.

At the data epicenter is Chris Murray of the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, whose Covid-19 tracking is closely watched by the entire world. He’s losing sleep over the variants. “I couldn’t sleep after seeing the data,” he told Reuters, which says,He is currently updating his model to account for variants’ ability to escape natural immunity.”

Ability to escape natural immunity. That means scientists “now believe … SARS-CoV-2 will not only remain with us as an endemic virus, continuing to circulate in communities, but will likely cause a significant burden of illness and death for years to come.”

en·dem·i·c … 3. (of a disease) persisting in a population or region, generally having settled to a relatively constant rate of occurrence: The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 may never disappear, but could become endemic like HIV.”

(From, here.) Yeah. As in, never go away.

That doesn’t mean things won’t improve. They probably will to some extent: “Some scientists, including Murray, acknowledge that the outlook could improve. The new vaccines … appear to prevent hospitalizations and death even when new variants are the cause of infection.” And “vaccine developers are working on booster shots and new inoculations that could preserve a high level of efficacy against the variants.”

But Murray expects the variants, if not contained, to kill 4 times as many Americans as flu next winter. That’s nothing to sneeze at, particularly if you’re one of them. The dumber you are about vaccines, masks, and social distancing, the more likely you will be; although let’s not forget the innocent victims. As Clint Eastwood’s movie character reminded us, “Deserve’s got nothing to do with it.” Well, in this case, maybe it does, but you have the guilty taking the innocent with them.

What about returning to normal? (Let’s skip the discussion of what “normal” is, other than nothing that wasn’t going all that well even before Covid.) Answer: “U.S. government predictions of a return to a more normal lifestyle have been repeatedly pushed back, most recently from late summer to Christmas, and then to March 2022.” And now maybe to forever?

Some people hold up Israel as a model, but their “Green Pass” immunity card that allows those anointed to go into hotels and theaters is “only valid for six months because it’s not clear how long immunity will last.” Whoa.

The next question is, “What does it mean to be past the emergency phase of this pandemic?” That was rhetorically asked by an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins, the institution running the popular “covidtracker” website (tallying the carnage) here, that people use to get the latest body count.

His answer: “While some experts have asked whether countries could completely eradicate … COVID-19 through vaccines and stringent lockdowns,” his goals are “more modest.” He says, “in my mind, it’s that hospitals aren’t full, the ICUs aren’t full, and people aren’t tragically passing.” In other words, you’re not intubated or dead.

Here’s the reality from a scientific point of view:

“From the beginning, the new coronavirus has been a moving target. Early in the pandemic, leading scientists warned that the virus could become endemic and may never go away,” Reuters says.

Then, successful vaccine trials led to optimism the disease could be wiped out, but that hope was short-lived. By January, Pfizer’s top vaccine scientist acknowledged that drug companies “will have to constantly monitor for mutations that could dampen the effect of vaccines.” Now, the public is being told that ongoing booster shots may be required.

And then you have the deniers, anti-vaxxers, and anti-maskers living in an alternate reality. Voting for Trump isn’t their only antisocial behavior. They’re not just unprotected from the virus, they’re spreading it. Remember South Dakota’s moron governor? Her state now has one of the country’s highest per-capita infection rates.

I’m old enough to remember the polio outbreak, the kids it crippled, and getting a polio vaccination. Back then, General Eisenhower was the Republicans’ idea of a good presidential candidate, my parents weren’t anti-vaxxers (thank God), you didn’t hear of people holding “polio parties” or refusing to get vaccinated, and within a few years that awful disease was eradicated in the U.S. and the iron lungs went to the scrap heap.

Things have changed. How did we get here? And why? Has the internet, with its capacity to efficiently and rapidly propagate lies and conspiracy theories, made our society dumber? Or is this just a case of unbearable cabin fever? I don’t know.

Read the entire Reuters article here.

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