Friday, November 27, 2020

Around the Coronavirus Horn, As We Move Toward the End

Now that Thanksgiving is over, if you did not behave yourself with masks and, most important, social distancing, I hope at least you were fortunate.  The near-certainty that we can get a vaccine in us by Christmas 2021 should not fool us into thinking its effects will be retroactive, and we cannot let up now.

Per Wednesday’s New York Times, there are now six vaccines “approved for early or limited use,” with 55 being tested on humans.  Although none yet are “approved for full use,” that is outstanding news.  Per the Times, the current American daily infection rate, with as of Tuesday an all-time-high 174,270 7-day average, is leveling off.  However, the corresponding death rate, which lags new cases, is now 1,621, the highest it has been for over six months.  The national map, with the darkest red-purple counties with over 250 new cases every day per 100,000 population, looked, as of Wednesday, as follows:


All this points up the need to arrive alive for the vaccines when we can get them. 

We have plenty of other useful information.  Per Andrew Taylor in the October 8th USA Today, “COVID-19 relief pushes U.S. budget deficit to a record $3.1T.”  That’s T as in “trillion,” for a total of $3,100,000,000,000, or a one-year shortfall of $9,375 per American.  Still we have no overall choice, though not all of that was due to pandemic relief. 

Although internal quarantine requirements make the vast majority of travel unfeasible even if benign, it is still good to know, as this situation changes, that “Amid airline industry slump, new study shows flying may actually be safer than grocery shopping, indoor dining” (Daniella Genovese, Fox Business, October 29th).  Indeed, I have never perceived that airlines have been lax here. 

As always, “The Latest Vaccine News Doesn’t Tell the Full Story” (Spencer Bokat-Lindell, The New York Times, November 17th).  Further information is that clinical success for both frontrunners Pfizer and Moderna have well exceeded effectiveness expectations, and that both use “genetic vaccine technology, which has been in development for 30 years,” which both companies may have been almost forced to try with the pandemic’s circumstances.

For another wrap-up from probably the best source, we have USA Today’s November 18th “In coronavirus war, hang on, help is on the way with COVID-19 vaccine:  Anthony Fauci Q&A.”  This interview, which printed out to eight pages, hit on “the most important thing for people to do between now and when the cavalry arrives” (Fauci:  “Hang on and implement the public health measures,” which are “uniform wearing of masks; physical distance; avoiding congregate settings, particularly indoors; trying to do things, when the weather allows, outdoors more than indoors; and washing hands,” all of which are more important than being truly locked down); that we need “consistency of message”;  that, “if the first doses of vaccine are available for front-line workers in December and January” the rest of us can expect to get them sometime between April and July;  that it will be effective about one week after the second of the two required doses; and overall, as Fauci put it himself, “Please, folks, hang on to the extent that we can, because help is on the way with a vaccine,” and “this is not going to be an indefinite situation.  It will change, and it will end.”  Heartening if hardly easy.

Much of the same information was in Sarah Zhang’s “The End of the Pandemic is Now in Sight,” published by The Atlantic on the same day.  Other general insights were that what broke the pandemic’s back was that “the scientific uncertainty at the heart of COVID-19 vaccines is resolved,” that “the invention of vaccines against a virus identified only 10 months ago is an extraordinary scientific achievement” making them “the fastest vaccines ever developed, by a margin of years,” that “several more COVID-19 vaccines may soon cross the finish line,” that “no one on Earth, until last week, knew whether” this type of vaccine would actually work in humans, and that, maybe more than anything else, “we were lucky.”  In conclusion, “every infection we prevent now – through masking and social distancing – is an infection that can, eventually, be prevented forever through vaccines.”

We can speculate what employment changes will remain after the coronavirus is gone, but the chief economist and others at Glassdoor, “the job posting and employee review site,” have put together projections that “These 10 jobs could disappear or decline because of COVID-19” (Paul Davidson, USA Today, November 19th).  Openings for each decreased from 25% to 69% from October 2019 to October 2020, and these fields were chosen for expected future weakness as well, “for several years, if not longer.”  The positions are chef, executive assistant, receptionist, accounts payable specialist, HR generalist, product demonstrator, brand ambassador, professor, event coordinator, and architect.  Why the last one?  Because there could be a great drop in the number of new office buildings, which architects design.  There are insights into the other nine as well.  So, hang on, wear that mask, stay six feet away, and prepare for some big celebrations late next year – we will have them.

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