Will the pandemic ever end?

The pandemic, it turns out, is not a war. It won’t end in either complete victory or in a negotiated treaty. That leaves us with no clear line between pandemic and not-pandemic. 

The consensus among public health experts and epidemiologists is that Covid will, at best, turn into a background danger, something that pops up in localized and seasonal outbreaks that we have to live with and work around. 

But that’s the best outcome, not the guaranteed one. Everything depends on how many people get vaccinated and what variants develop. And because no variant can be contained in one country or region, one country’s problem is every other country’s problem.

According to Alessandro Vespignani, professor of physics, computer science, and health sciences, “Vaccination of the low- and middle-income countries is the most altruistic thought and at the same time, the most selfish. Because we have to protect those populations so that we can protect us.” 

Irrelevant photo: The Bude Canal

So that’s a definite maybe on the pandemic ending, not a resounding yes. Pack away the trumpets, the confetti, the Mission Accomplished banners. That banner stuff looked a little silly anyway, back when Bush Jr. tried it. And keep your eye on what’s happening in the worst prepared countries, because what happens there will be knocking on your door and mine in no time at all.

 

More on long Covid

First, the disclaimer: There’s no one definition of long Covid, so if this all seems a little murky, that’s because it is. Long Covid’s symptoms range from the annoying to the life-changingly disastrous, and at this point they all get lumped in together. Some of them go away after a while and others get milder. Some do neither–they set up housekeeping. 

If that sounds ominous, allow me to make the picture worse:

Almost a fifth of the people who caught Covid infections but had no symptoms show symptoms “consistent with long Covid” a month after they got infected. In other words, people who had no symptoms may be going on to develop long Covid. 

And 27.5% of non-hospitalized people with symptomatic Covid did the same thing, as did 50% of the people who were hospitalized. 

That comes from an analysis of medical insurance claims by 1.96 million people in the U.S. The weaknesses of the study are that it didn’t have a control group and that it only studied people who had certain kinds of insurance. In the U.S., what kind of insurance you have says a lot about your class, which in turn says a lot about how Covid hits you.

Did I say “class”? Sorry. Everyone in the U.S. is middle class. It’s just that a very few members of the middle class are obscenely rich, some are doing fine, some are just hanging on, and some are long-term broke.

I’ve been away so long. I sometimes forget. 

But back to the study. Its strength is that it’s huge. 

But you can’t look at it and say, “This group of people definitely had long Covid.” On the other hand, with no solid definition of long Covid, it’s hard to look at any group of people and say that. At the very least, it’s enough to make us stop and think about what we’re dealing with in the long term. The pandemic is likely to leave us with a long-term public health problem, something individuals, families, health systems, and governments will all have to deal with.

The report also “drives home the point that long Covid can affect nearly every organ system,” according to Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly, chief of the research and development service at the Veterans Administration St. Louis Health Care System. “Some of these manifestations are chronic conditions that will last a lifetime and will forever scar some individuals and families.”

Just to keep from scaring ourselves witless, let’s remember that some of the manifestations (that translates to symptoms) aren’t likely to leave scars forever. No one seems completely sure of how wide and how deep the problem of long Covid will go. It scares the hell out of me, but there’s no point in getting so scared we can’t function anymore.

If, in fact, we ever did function (she said cheerily).

 

So when do we go back to normal?

England–or its government, anyway–has put off lifting the last of its lockdown rules. That makes the prime minister very sad. He wanted to let us know that we all live in paradise, have enough money to live well, and are at our ideal body weight. 

Yea, every last lumpy one of us.

The postponement came because multiple experts have been warning of a possible third wave. Last I heard, England’s R number–the rate at which the virus is spreading–was estimated to be 1.4. Anything above 1 means the number of infections is growing. The numbers aren’t high yet, but the direction’s not good. 

If we do have a third wave, it’s expected to be caused by the more transmissible and possibly more dangerous Delta version of Covid. The hope is that keeping those last restrictions for a while means there’ll be time to vaccinate more people, preferably with two doses of a vaccine, not just one. 

 

Vaccine updatelets

In the region at the center of Britain’s outbreak, vaccination numbers have dropped in the last month. I’d love to give you more detail, but the article’s behind a paywall on a site I don’t want to subscribe to, so it’s headlines only on this. 

*

People working in care homes in England will have to get vaccinated in the next 16 weeks if they’re going to keep working with patients–or in some cases, keep working at all. The only exceptions will be people with a medical reason not to get the vaccine. No one knows how this will play out, but assorted organizations of medical professionals are opposing it.

The requirement may be extended to National Health Service staff.

“Compulsion is a blunt instrument that carries its own risks,” the British Medical Association said. An (unnamed) NHS boss said it was setting up a confrontation with staff “at a time when you’re denying them a decent pay rise but also saying how much you love them.”

Both fields already have staff recruitment problems. That have been made worse by Brexit. And low pay. And at least in the NHS, pandemic working conditions. 

In early June, 89% of NHS staff was at least half vaccinated and 82% fully vaccinated. In adult care homes, that was 83% and 68%. 

*

A new vaccine, this one made by Novavax, has come through stage 3 trials showing 90.4% effectiveness against mild and moderate Covid and 100% effectiveness against severe cases. It was tested against the Alpha, Beta, and Gamma variants. The Delta variant overslept and missed the test.

Delta will receive a failing grade but will be eligible to take the test the next time it’s scheduled. A spokesperson for the variant said, “Delta has other priorities at the moment and will be in touch when its schedule allows. It has no further comment at the present time and will not take questions.”

The Novavax is a two-dose vaccine. 

*

A small study dropped hints that a third Covid vaccine does might give transplant patients a better immune response. People with transplanted organs have to take drugs that suppress their immune systems in order to keep their transplants from being attacked by the aforesaid immune systems. Two doses don’t seem to be enough to rev up their Covid immunity.

A larger study is planned. In the meantime, the people who understand these things are feeling hopeful.

 

52 thoughts on “Will the pandemic ever end?

  1. I think the short answer to your question is no. I wonder what happened with Spanish flu. All of the things that I’ve read and heard concentrate on the beginning and the middle, but not on the end, if there was one.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agreed. One of my primary hopes (and I should’ve included this again, although I’ve mentioned it before) is that several drugs are in development that will–or could potentially–stop Covid from progressing from infection to disease. That will make a huge difference–at least in countries that can afford them (she said with just the slightest tinge of bitterness).

      Liked by 1 person

  2. As I understand it, Spanish flu mutated into “normal” flu, which isn’t as bad. Unfortunately, the main reason the pandemic ended seems to have been herd immunity, for which it had to kill 50 million people, like the Black Death wiping out at least 25% of the population of Europe. But fingers crossed that vaccinations will get rid of it – only smallpox has ever been eradicated completely, but things like TB, diptheria, polio etc are no longer big issues.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Slovenia abolished the pandemic yesterday. I hope it was told about it and will act accordingly. When it was cancelled last year (by a Tweet, if I remember correctly), they thought to applaud its leaving by an air show. I wish I were kidding. I’m still in Italy though, for at least a month…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m not sure about the virus, the vaccine or our health, but I’m pretty sure news reporting will never go back to normal. Normal being a time when news was based on research, hard work and the stories were verified before being reported. I like the concept or “updatelets” – I think you should patent that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t think I can patent it, because my spellcheck didn’t question it, meaning someone must’ve gotten their first. Damn, I hope I don’t get sued over that. I didn’t think to ask if they had a patent on the word. Or a copyright. Or dibs, or an, um, yeah, whatever.

      A few outfits are still doing research and fact checking, and may blessing rain on their overworked heads, but they’re clearly not in touch with the spirit of the times. And I say that without having fact-checked it at all.

      Like

  5. We’re starting to be pressed to telework less and return to our office space. I went into the office yesterday morning only because I had a dental appointment in town. I took the train for the first time in 1-1/2 years. All 20 people in my car were socially distanced, but I gave the side-eye to four people who were mask-less. I”m not ready to be flattened up against people in a crowded subway, or working in an open-space environment with coughers and sneezers. Inevitably, they’re the ones who show up in the office, and aerate the large open spaces with their 200 mph sneezes.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Yeah. Sharing a train car with 20 people is a whole ‘nother experience than sharing one with (randomly selected number warning) 150. And speaking as a repeat-offense sneezer (can’t help that) and cougher (could some of the time, probably, but it doesn’t feel that way)–well, if you get enough people in one airspace, a certain number of them will be doing that. I don’t understand why companies are feeling this pressure to gather everyone back in. Work seems to be getting done. Is it just a case of having always done it this way before do you think?

      Like

      • After 1-1/2 years of high productivity from teleworking, I don’t think anyone can say they don’t trust staff to work from home. Only 52% of employees are vaccinated, and that is despite our being able to get vaccinated through our employer. (They set up an impressive operation.) Frankly, I think the new head of our agency wants to see a buzz of activity from her many minions. Plus, bringing folks back into the office is part of the city’s recovery, too — especially for public transportation, local businesses, and commercial realtors. We want to believe we’re ready to get back to normal.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I remember the first time the British government was trying to chase everyone back into the office: The focus was on everyone spending money again–public transportation, parking, sandwich shops, coffee shops. The glittery pen you buy for your 8-year-old on the way home just because. (Somehow the commercial realtors weren’t mentioned, although I’m sure they were considered.) In other words, it was to put the broken pieces back together the way they used to be, not because they need to fit that way. Not because it works better that way.

          Like

    • My sense of British geography is hazy, so I haven’t tracked where the outbreaks are–except that they’re up north somewhere. That’s somewhere between inexcusable and understandable–take your pick. But I get the sense that a lot of the English who don’t like in the north know about as much as I do–possibly with less excuse.

      That could include a fair number of people in government.

      Liked by 1 person

      • There are Covid maps. What I’ve seen it’s metro areas from London north to the Scottish border, where it basically stops and west to Cornwall and Wales where things are also much better. It’s interesting how politics has played so much into behavior on this. Here, the hotspots are Tennessee and Texas, mainly, where politics punish the vulnerable.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Do they ever.

          I just found out that the number of cases is Cornwall is growing rapidly. Admittedly from a low level, but even so, it’s worrying. Mostly they’re the Delta variant. I’d love to blame the G7, but it seems to have started in a college. Young people are still almost completely unvaccinated.

          Liked by 1 person

            • We’re still doing masks indoors here–with the unfortunate exception of inside cafes, restaurants, and pubs, which is probably why the reports say the heaviest concentration is (or at least was–it may have moved out outward by now) among young, still unvaccinated people working in the hospitality sector. But forget recommendations. I’d wear a mask indoors anyway, and I’m staying out of enclosed eating places.

              Liked by 1 person

              • Me too. Even vaccinated, I’m pretty paranoid. And the percentages of effectiveness against new variants make me pause. Way too much “prevents serious cases and hospitalizations” language–I don’t want this stuff at all!

                Liked by 1 person

              • Especially with what little we know about long Covid. I’ve been looking for information on long Covid and vaccinated people, but so far I haven’t found anything. It’s probably too early to know.

                Liked by 1 person

    • One country in, I think, southeast Asia approached it this way, at least at first. It made sense to me. I haven’t seen any follow-up on how it worked out. I wish I could remember which country it was, because I could research how things have gone there, but I don’t have the patience to look them all up one by one–and then find out that it wasn’t southeast Asia at all.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. That’s a great blog. Loved it and very informative. I caught COVID last April. Nearly killed me and now, over a year later, it’s done some very strange things to me. Now I can’t walk too far, the fatigue is incredible. Feel very weird some days, dizzy, chest pains and now it’s tinnitus that’s driving me batty!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, hell. That sounds awful. The dangers of long Covid, I think, are massively underestimated. It’s hard to document and count, so the people who matter tend not to document and count it, or when they do count it it’s all a bit hazy. And it’s inconvenient, so a lot of governments will want to ignore it. But they’re going to be looking at a large number or people with serious disabilities unless the picture changes somehow–hopefully by some genius figuring out how to treat it.

      You take care, Vinny.

      Like

  7. Yeah it’s been grim to be honest but I’m still here chatting away still breathing when so many have died so I feel incredibly lucky. I do hope that a genius is out there working on a solution of some sort cos like you I think long COVID is hugely underestimated. Thank you I will take care and same to you.

    Liked by 1 person

Talk to me

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.