Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022

Trapped in an ever-changing maze. A formula for dystopian sci-fi.

“The Maze Runner” (2014).

At some point it all becomes a blur. We’re living in a new world, navigating a Covid labyrinth that changes every day. Literally. My son just forwarded me an email that claims “to clear up the confusion” regarding the California isolation requirements, which pre-empt the recently revised CDC rules, which themselves are under review again today. Whole new job descriptions have cropped up to keep organizations Covid-compliant. (See Year Two, Week 31, https://historysedge.wordpress.com/2021/10/10/year-2-week-31-ready-for-a-new-job/ ).

Most of us have to manage the ongoing demands of everyday life first and we only look at the Covid map on a need-to-know basis. Like the proverbial frog in the slowly heating water, we wonder how it ever got this difficult. January, the time for looking back and looking forward, is a perfect time for a short recap. First, the two-year numbers. Yes we are in a winter surge of cases again, bigger than last year, but with fewer deaths and hospitalizations.

New York Times, U.S. Statistics, link below

Now compare the graphs with this timeline:

  • March 11, 2020: WHO declares Covid-19 a pandemic. Global cases: 9,800.
  • March 15, 2020: U.S. states begin to shut down businesses and schools to “flatten the curve.”
  • October 19, 2020: Global cases top 40 Million. Winter surge in U.S.
  • December, 2020: FDA approves Emergency Use for Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
  • June 1, 2021: Delta variant becomes dominant in U.S.; Summer surge
  • November 26, 2021: WHO names Omicron a variant of concern.
  • December 1, 2021: First Omicron case in U.S.
  • December 21, 2021: Omicron becomes dominant strain in U. S. Winter surge.
  • Jan. 4, 2022: Global cases top 294 Million.

In just two years a few patterns have emerged. For example:

  1. Covid cases are increasing rapidly worldwide. It’s not going away and we will learn to live with it, as a world, as a nation, and as individuals. Developing constructive individual coping strategies may be the most important factor of all in finding our way through this maze.
  2. Variants happen all the time, but once a year (so far) one variant gets contagious enough to take over.
  3. The vaccines will lag behind the variants and will need to be reconfigured from time to time.
  4. The U.S. has a summer surge and a bigger winter surge. The media likes to relate this to human behavior, but the apparent seasonality may also be related to properties of the virus, our immune system, or other variables.
  5. We have much to learn about where this journey is taking us.

And constant changes continue to shift the walls of the labyrinth. Today the CDC has updated its isolation guidance to (possibly) include testing at a time when testing is getting harder and harder to obtain. See “Facing criticism, CDC updates Covid-19 isolation recommendations with guidance on testing,” link below.

We tried buying rapid antigen test kits at six stores yesterday!

Right now, with Omicron spreading and the winter surge surging, I see two schools of thought in the news headlines. There are the optimists, who say that the virus is spreading fast, but that Omicron causes less severe disease and may make us immune to Covid. This may be the end, they tell us. Then there are the pessimists who say that the virus is spreading fast, but that it can cause severe disease especially in the vulnerable populations. (Remember, a small percentage of a large number is still a large number.) Immunity acquired from infection may only last a few months, they say.

They both play on human nature. Yes, we all want to chose hope over despair. Yet our brains are naturally attracted to warnings of danger, such as scary headlines. The new year may bring us both good news and bad news.

Welcome to 2022.

Today’s Notable Headlines

“‘CDC Says’ Jokes Trend After New Covid-19 Isolation, Quarantine Guideline Changes,” Forbes Magazine, Jan. 1, 2022. https://www.forbes.com/sites/brucelee/2022/01/01/cdc-says-jokes-trend-after-new-covid-19-isolation-quarantine-guideline-changes/?sh=30d5cd5d1ead

“German Hospitals Hope Omicron – as Milder Variant – Could Ease Burden,” US News, Jan. 2, 2022. https://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2022-01-02/german-hospitals-hope-omicron-as-milder-variant-could-ease-burden

“Doctors bemoan limited supply of game-changing antiviral pills amid winter surge,” Washington Post, Updated Jan. 4, 2022. https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2022/01/04/antiviral-pills-supply-omicron/

“Facing criticism, CDC updates Covid-19 isolation recommendations with guidance on testing,” CNN, Jan. 4, 2022 (one hour ago). https://www.cnn.com/2022/01/04/health/cdc-updated-guidance-covid-isolation/index.html

Other Important Sources

“Coronavirus in the U.S.: Latest Map and Case Count,” New York Times, updated Jan. 4, 2022. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/us/covid-cases.html

“A Timeline of COVID-19 Developments in 2020,” AJMC, Jan. 1, 2021. https://www.ajmc.com/view/a-timeline-of-covid19-developments-in-2020

“CDC Museum COVID-19 Timeline,” CDC, https://www.cdc.gov/museum/timeline/covid19.html

“Omicron is now the dominant strain of coronavirus in the US, according to the CDC,” CNN, Dec. 21, 2021. https://www.cnn.com/2021/12/20/health/us-coronavirus-monday/index.html

“First Confirmed Case of Omicron Variant Detected in the United States,” CDC. Dec. 1, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2021/s1201-omicron-variant.html

Worldometer, updated Jan. 4, 2022. https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/

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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