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Monday, August 9, 2021

Last Friday was my second pandemic birthday and I’m through making predictions. I’m not making any more travel reservations either. I’m taking a wait-and-see attitude on both. Remember my Countdown app? Here’s a snapshot from March 11, 2021, the first anniversary of the pandemic.

Why did I predict the End of the Pandemic for Tuesday, October 12, 2021? Because it is 18 months after the Pandemic was declared on March 11, 2020. A quick study of modern pandemics showed that both influenza (1918, 1957, 1968, 2009) and coronavirus pandemics (SARS-2003 and MERS-2012) had come to an end within 18 months. In the spring of 2020, 18 months seemed like a safe estimate. Just goes to show, I’m a historian, not a fortune teller.

So what’s different about THIS pandemic?

200 years of population increase (from Our World in Data)
  • The world is different from before:
    • Huge growth in population: We’ve gone from about 1 billion people in 1800 to 7.7 billion today (from Our World in Data). The virus has a lot of potential hosts and a lot of ways to find them because of . . .
    • Increased contact: World travel, airlines, shipping, local and international commerce in constant exchange, enabled by . . .
    • Increased communication: Ease in ordering goods and making reservations. News of variants, news of outbreaks, concern for our families spread across the globe. We don’t catch COVID on the internet (thank goodness) but we hear about it, react to it, and feel the stress.
Mortality, COVID-19, Johns Hopkins, Aug. 9, 2021

  • This virus is different from other coronaviruses:
    • Asymptomatic spread. People have a few days to spread it before they know they’re sick. In contrast, people could only spread 2003 SARS-CoV virus when they had symptoms. MERS (2012) spread directly from camels. Person to person spread was usually among family members or in healthcare settings.
    • Low mortality rate. The 2003 SARS-CoV virus had about a 10% fatality rate. MERS was over 34% fatal. Movie pandemics (Contagion, Pandemic, Andromeda Strain, World War Z, etc.) are always very contagious and very fatal, so we can watch the movie people get excited and run around trying to escape and find an instant cure. Now, it’s GOOD that our COVID-19 has a low mortality rate. But that also causes people to not worry about it as much. The exact mortality rate right now depends on availability of vaccines, treatment, population, testing, etc. Currently Johns Hopkins shows Mexico at 8.2%, South Africa at 3%, and the U.S. at 1.7%. But (1) that small percent adds up to a lot of people and (2) COVID-19 hits some populations much harder than others.
    • Moving target: Our COVID’s most powerful weapon is its ability to spread rapidly. As it multiplies it mutates, presenting us with variants. Each time a faster-spreading variant takes over, we are forced to reevaluate our vaccines and our personal non-pharmaceutical preventative measures. Our best defense is to keep it from spreading. All over the world.

Since I don’t know when the pandemic will be over, I’m not going to wait for someone to declare that “normal has arrived.” I’m going to keep informed and incorporate whatever precautions I think are needed to stay healthy and live my life. My 2020 birthday was my 75th and I wanted a party. But we cancelled the party. Instead I had lots of cards, which I kept, and lots of phone calls and flowers and Zoom visits. It was unique and memorable, but a little sad.

This year the big difference is the vaccines. I’m double-vaxxed, so we did go ahead and get the family together at my house, partly inside, party outside, some vaxxed, some not, but careful, and all so happy to be together. We celebrated my 75th and 76th, so we’re all caught up and I hope next year we don’t even have to think about it.

But I’m not making any predictions.

Today’s Notable Headlines

“The world is nowhere near the end of the Covid pandemic, says famed epidemiologist Larry Brilliant,” CNBC, Aug. 8, 2021. https://www.cnbc.com/2021/08/09/covid-epidemiologist-larry-brilliant-on-delta-variant-vaccinations.html

“Explainer: Beyond Delta, scientists are watching new coronavirus variants,” Reuters, Aug. 8, 2021. https://www.reuters.com/world/india/beyond-delta-scientists-are-watching-new-coronavirus-variants-2021-08-08/

“Delta variant is ravaging the world but it’s pushing Southeast Asia to breaking point,” CNN, Aug. 12, 2021. https://www.cnn.com/2021/08/04/asia/southeast-asia-delta-covid-explainer-intl-hnk/index.html

Additional Sources

World Population Growth, Our World in Data, https://ourworldindata.org/world-population-growth

“How do SARS and MERS compare with COVID-19?” Medical News Today, April 10, 2020. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/how-do-sars-and-mers-compare-with-covid-19

MORTALITY ANALYSES, Johns Hopkins, Aug. 9, 2021. https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/data/mortality

Personal NPIs: Everyday Preventive Actions, CDC, https://www.cdc.gov/nonpharmaceutical-interventions/personal/index.html

Why am I doing this?

The coronavirus pandemic will be indelibly written on our memories just as the Great Depression or the Battle of Britain left their mark on past generations. I intend to journal the pandemic experience from three perspectives: as a retired medical technologist, as a historian (Ph.D., 2014), and an ordinary person living through an extraordinary world crisis.

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