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Monday, Nov. 9, 2021:

Scott Gottlieb made a startling announcement last Friday. The new OSHA vaccine mandates that take effect on Jan. 4 “are coming on the tail end of this pandemic,” he said. “By Jan. 4 this pandemic may well be over, at least as it relates to the United States,” (See video on CNBC, link below).

Gottlieb, a Pfizer board member and former FDA Commissioner, spoke in the wake of Pfizer’s news that that its oral antiviral medication PAXLOVID reduced COVID-related hospitalization and death by 89% compared to a placebo after 28 days of testing. Pfizer’s press release comes days after Merck’s oral antiviral drug, molnupiravir, was approved for use in the UK. Clinical trials show both antivirals to be effective in preventing hospitalization and death from COVID when taken within a few days after symptom onset.

Both pills may be available very soon. The FDA is set to evaluate Merck’s molnupiravir on November 30, while Gottlieb projects that the Pfizer pill may be on the market as early as December. By January we may find ourselves armed not only with effective vaccines but with effective treatments as well.

This news comes as infections in the U. S. are leveling out. Last November the number of new cases was ramping up to a surge that peaked in early January. Then we had a steep decline as summer approached, followed by an increase that peaked on Sept. 13, 2021. Now the number of cases is leveling out. Hospital admissions and deaths show a similar trend, but hopefully these metrics will show improvement with the upcoming availability of home treatment.

Does this mean the pandemic is almost over in the United States? If by “over” Dr. Gottlieb means that the United States will have the tools to confine and manage the disease we call COVID-19 by January, he may be right. But the economic and social aftershocks will continue for years. Increasingly we see headlines referring to this period as “the pandemic era.” Science historian Allan Brandt reminded us recently that, “We are living in the Covid-19 era, not the Covid-19 crisis.” (NYT, Oct. 12, below).

But this period is not limited to an era of Covid-19. The pandemic comes at a time when we are still struggling with the effects of the world-wide financial crisis of 2007-2009. Known as the Great Financial Crisis or the Global Financial Crisis, this economic collapse disrupted banks, businesses, employment, education, construction, and housing, causing drastic life changes for people in many parts of the world.

Try searching on “Pandemic Era” and focus on News. Notice the scope of the latest headlines. What is changing right now? Anything with an audience: sports, theater, concerts, NASCAR. Investing: the participants and areas of interest have expanded–have you kept up with cryptocurrency and cannabis, Robinhood and Tesla? Do you know about digital nomads? The metaverse? Meta? Travel– from Airbnb’s rising profits to Thailand’s “pandemic-era tourism.” Education: “pandemic-era” declines in community college enrollment. Jobs: A Wall Street Journal article today talks about how job requirements and the job application process is becoming faster, leaner, more efficient. Maybe that job doesn’t really need a bachelor’s degree.

The world was changing. Now it’s changing faster. Covid threw gasoline onto a smoldering fire.

Historians shape the past into a narrative. Journalists do the same for the present. But who makes a narrative for the future? If only we could see into the history books of 2050. Will our pandemic era be eclipsed by future events? Will it bear any resemblance to the way we see it now? How will they tell our story?

Today’s Notable Headlines

“Britain approves Merck’s COVID-19 pill in world first,” Reuters, Nov. 4, 2021. https://www.reuters.com/business/healthcare-pharmaceuticals/britain-approves-mercks-oral-covid-19-pill-2021-11-04/

“Pfizer board member Gottlieb says the Covid pandemic could be over in the U.S. by January,” CNBC, Nov. 5, 2021. https://www.cnbc.com/2021/11/05/pfizer-board-member-gottlieb-says-the-covid-pandemic-could-be-over-in-the-us-by-january-.html

“Past Pandemics Remind Us Covid Will Be an Era, Not a Crisis That Fades.” New York Times, Oct. 12, 2021. Updated Oct. 14, 2021.  https://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/12/health/when-will-covid-end.html

“Help Really Wanted: No Degree, Work Experience or Background Checks,” The Wall Street Journal, Nov. 6, 2021. https://www.wsj.com/articles/help-really-wanted-no-degree-work-experience-or-background-checks-11636196307

Additional Sources

“PFIZER’S NOVEL COVID-19 ORAL ANTIVIRAL TREATMENT CANDIDATE REDUCED RISK OF HOSPITALIZATION OR DEATH BY 89% IN INTERIM ANALYSIS OF PHASE 2/3 EPIC-HR STUDY,” Pfizer press release, Friday, Nov. 5, 2021. https://www.pfizer.com/news/press-release/press-release-detail/pfizers-novel-covid-19-oral-antiviral-treatment-candidate

“FDA to Hold Advisory Committee Meeting to Discuss Merck and Ridgeback’s EUA Application for COVID-19 Oral Treatment,” FDA News Release, Oct. 14, 2021. https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-hold-advisory-committee-meeting-discuss-merck-and-ridgebacks-eua-application-covid-19-oral

“Coronavirus in the U.S.: Latest Map and Case Count,” New York Times, interactive map, updated Nov. 8, 2021. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/us/covid-cases.html

“The 2007–2008 Financial Crisis in Review,” Investopedia, Aug. 29, 2021. https://www.investopedia.com/articles/economics/09/financial-crisis-review.asp

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.

2 thoughts on “Year 2, Week 35: Is This a New Era?

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