We start with a grim milestone, per Richard Perez-Pena in the September 28th New York Times: “Coronavirus Deaths Pass One Million Worldwide.” It’s “still growing fast,” and “may already have overtaken tuberculosis and hepatitis as the world’s deadliest infectious disease.” That took ten months from the pandemic’s very beginning – how long will it be until it doubles?
Citing someone who probably didn’t expect to be discredited by the presidential administration which hired him, “Dr. Anthony Fauci assures Americans they can trust credibility of COVID-19 vaccine process” (Shawn Mulcahy, Yahoo News, October 2nd). Fauci didn’t like that “so many people are reticent to get a vaccine,” due to “mixed messages that come out of Washington,” and, per unnamed “experts” Mulcahy invoked, “it likely will not be widely available until late 2021.” It’s been a slow month or so for specific publicized progress steps there, but the vaccine process, before then, seemed on track for sooner. Leah Groth referenced the same subject in “Dr. Fauci Predicts When Life Will Be ‘Normal’ Again,” in the same publication a day later, where the physician projected that “masks and social distancing are going to be the norm for over a year at least.”
Our perception of how the virus is most likely to spread has changed since March’s emphasis on frequent handwashing and avoiding touching surfaces, but since then we have learned that these are low priority. In The Atlantic on September 29th, Zeynep Tufecki took that further in “This Overlooked Variable Is the Key to the Pandemic.” The author’s rambling 13-page article focused on a scientific finding that “this is an overdispersed pathogen, meaning that it tends to spread in clusters.” That seemed to translate into avoiding crowded indoor gatherings with poor ventilation “where many people congregate over time – weddings, churches, choirs, gyms, funerals, restaurants and such – especially when there is loud talking or singing without masks.” The worst known event to date was in a large Korean church, where one person spread the coronavirus to 5,000 others. That may explain why outdoor events, such as the Sturgis motorcycle festival, have not caused huge numbers of cases. If it is, indeed, 2022 before we can lose the masks, we may be able to accept seeing more and more people, if we are outdoors.
With the holidays coming up, we would all like to know “How to Tell If Socializing Indoors Is Safe” (Olga Khazan, The Atlantic, October 12th). The author maintained that such get-togethers, although “no indoor gathering will be perfectly safe,” are much less dangerous in areas with low infection rates, which might be defined as fewer than 10 new cases per day per 100,000 population. Although Khazan called such data “not widely known,” it is updated daily by county on the front page of the New York Times website, under “U.S. hot spots.” That also should become more common working knowledge in the potentially bleak year to come.
We end with good news, addressing an ongoing concern peaking recently: “Coronavirus Reinfections Are Real but Very, Very Rare” (Apoorva Mandavilli, October 13th, The New York Times). There are only three such confirmed and 20 such review-awaiting cases in the world, and per article subheads, “in most people, the immune system works as expected,” and “a resurgence of symptoms doesn’t prove reinfection.” So, although there is plenty to be concerned about with this pandemic, don’t bother about that – once, which is plenty enough, seems to almost always be the limit. And, as well, “vaccines may be crucial to preventing reinfections.” We will wait patiently and hope those materialize relatively soon.