The virus situation now is like juggling ten balls in the air. There are so many variables, and even the experts have been changing their minds, making varying predictions. but finding the situation to be unpredictable. However, looking at the numbers helps to plan for an uncertain winter. Dhruv Khullar of The New Yorker offers us some stats in their Oct. 16 edition. Here is a synopsis of what was reported:
a. “Since the start of September, daily cases have dropped by a third, and daily hospitalizations have fallen by more than a quarter. COVID deaths are now starting to decline from their peak.”
b.”The Delta wave is waning,” but what will happen this winter?
c. 78% of adults in the US have been vaccinated with at least one dose of vaccine and the numbers are going higher. Boosters are going up dramatically.
d. The antiviral drug molnupiravir (Merck) is a pill to treat people with mild or moderate active COVID and “should significantly reduce the likelihood that people with mild to moderate COVID will die or be hospitalized.” This should be a boon for those who are not vaccinated and then develop the disease. Just go to the drugstore and buy a pill (as with Tamiflu for influenza.)
e. Rapid COVID antigen tests are going to have widespread use. It is now known that ” a third of Americans have been infected by the virus and carry some level of natural immunity.” Eileen and I (who had a breakthrough infection) have antibodies from the monoclonal infusion, the infection itself, and the vaccine with booster. Her ID doctor told her that she was “super immune.” But we are still worried about getting the bug again.
f. The US has the lowest vaccination rate among wealthy democracies and has now fallen behind many poorer nations such as Cambodia.
g. One in six adults in the US refuse to be vaccinated. But 97% of people in the U.K. over sixty five are fully vaccinated. (84% in US—-still too low.)
h. Regarding winter, the Delta variant can ravage pockets of unvaccinated people. “If you’re an older person in the US and you are not vaccinated, it’s going to be a very bad winter.”
h. People will be spending more time indoors this winter leading to more opportunities for the virus to spread.
j. “Among the vaccinated, breakthrough infections (eg Eileen and I) will be uncommon and usually mild (as with us.) But as immunity ebbs, especially for older people, serious illness will increase with time.” Boosters are essential and the availability has now opened up.
k. June had low rates of infections and deaths, but “after Delta hit, there were nearly one hundred thousand American COVID deaths.”
l. Conclusion: “Perhaps the safest prediction is that reopening, variants, and immunity will combine in disparate ways for people, depending on their age, health and risk tolerance, as well as their neighbors’ decisions. We all walked into this pandemic together. But we’ll leave it at different speeds, and at different time.”
Thanks to The New Yorker for this terrific summary.
Paul Goldfinger, MD, Editor Blogfinger.net
KATE McGARRIGLE AND MARTHA WAINRIGHT “Winter Lady” by Leonard Cohen