What will it mean if Covid stops being a pandemic?

The talk these days is that Covid will eventually lose its pandemic status and turn into an ordinary, house-trained endemic disease–the kind of disease that circulates in a population and gets us sick but doesn’t give us nightmares, overwhelm hospitals, or kill huge numbers of people. And (they say) this will happen because of two factors: vaccination and the natural immunity that people who’ve been exposed and survived gain. 

What are the odds, though, that Covid will pull a fast one and evade our immunities

Not that high, according to a study that tried to replicate Covid’s mutation pattern using a harmless virus. To completely outrun the immunity we gain from either exposure or vaccination, the virus would have to draw twenty of the right cards out of the mutation deck. 

How many cards are we playing with? I’m not sure. As far as I can figure out, the rules of the game keep shifting. But the scientists–the people who study this stuff, as opposed to the people who read one lone article and call themselves experts–say it would be one hell of a trick for it to pick all twenty.

Irrelevant photo: The north Cornish coast.

On top of that, the virus isn’t the only thing that evolves. So does the human immune system. After it’s met the virus, either in the form of an infection or a vaccine, it sits down and plays with its antibodies. Think of it as a kid with a Lego set. It spends months working out shapes that bind ever more tightly to Covid’s spike proteins. 

People who’ve gotten an mRNA vaccine and also have naturally occurring immunity to Covid have the strongest defense. It’s possible that booster shots will create the same flexible immunity, although that hasn’t been demonstrated yet.

So as surely as the virus doesn’t keep one single form, neither does the human immune system. We will, eventually, get through this mess, although the question is at what cost. 


How can we measure Covid’s impact?

In the US, Covid has now killed as many people as the 1918-19 flu epidemic. I’d love to give you comparisons for other countries, but that’s all I’ve found.

To put that into perspective, in 1918 the population of the US was a third of what it is now, so it killed a larger percentage of people. On the other hand, if we’re comparing the inherent danger of the two diseases, massive advances in medicine have kept the death toll lower than it would otherwise have been. 

There must be a dozen ways to measure Covid’s impact, but one of them is cold, hard cash. Again in the US, it’s cost almost $6 billion to hospitalize the unvaccianted in just three months, from June through August 2021

The study’s authors say that’s probably an underestimate.

Yet another study says that by March of 2021, Covid had taken 9 million years of life from the U.S. population. Instead of measuring excess deaths, it looked at the mortality burden of the pandemic. 

What the hell does that mean? You would have to ask, wouldn’t you? The study looked at QALYs, or quality adjusted life years, using them to measure the length of time people would have lived if they hadn’t, um, died. It says that people between 25 and 64 lost 4.67 million years of life, and Black and Hispanic communities were hit hardest, especially men in those groups who were 65 and older.

I know, I know, I’m supposed to be writing about Britain. What can I tell you? Bloggers are irresponsible cheats.


Question: If you’re not vaccinated against Covid, will gargling with iodine help? 

Answer: In a test tube, povidone-iodine kills the Covid virus. 

Further information about that answer: Humans aren’t test tubes. 

What happens in a human, then? There haven’t been many studies, but what few there are hint that iodine can inactivate Covid in the mouth for a time, but not for a long one. What happens after that? The same thing that was happening before. If you breathe in the virus, there’ll be nothing there to stop it. If you’re incubating the virus, it’ll move back into your throat and ditto–there’ll be nothing there to stop it. It’s like wiping your kitchen counters with antiseptic wipes. You kill 99 point something percent of the germs that are present in that moment. Then you and your antiseptic wipes go away and wherever the germs came from, they come back. 

In other words, unless you’re going to spend your days and nights gargling with whatsidone-iodine, this isn’t going to work. 

And have I mentioned that the stuff tastes disgusting and smells just as bad?

Other than that, is there any reason not to use it? Well, it can cause skin irritation–sometimes severe, although not necessarily. It can (rarely) cause your thyroid gland to become inactive, especially if you’re pregnant. And especially if you’re both pregnant and a woman.

The most likely side effect, though, is that it will make you think you’re done something to protect either yourself or the people around you when you haven’t. 


On Fridays I usually post something about English or British history or culture. This week I’m doing well to do post anything at all. I hope to be back to full speed eventually. In the meantime, bear with me.

81 thoughts on “What will it mean if Covid stops being a pandemic?

    • The kitten’s driving Fast Eddie out. Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but not by much. It’s insane. He weighs next to nothing, but Eddie’s still pretty freaked by him. I feel like the cat referee lately.

      What’s distracting me is a combination of things, none of them lethal I’m happy to say, but I am feeling overwhelmed and the blog (not to mention the garden) is one of the things that’s suffering for it.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Sorry, no, lower percentage. Same number but out of a larger population.

      Amazing record for Ireland. How has it managed to avoid the lunacy about vaccines doing terrible things like, I don’t know, chaning out DNA so that we turn into washing machines?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Politics in Ireland involves lengthy debate and then some quite sensible decisions – people by and large respect that. There’s a lot of emphasis on not passing it on and people claen their hands and wear masks in shops (outside in the Donegal wind, is another matter). That said, there are still anti-vaxxers about. There was an incident where a local man who was in the hospital with covid, was persuaded to leave my his anti-vax “friends”. He came home, got worse, and went back into hospital and died. His family have louded pointed out that they were not true “friends”.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Well our Neighbors to the south are massively under vaccinated. For all the money and 1st world medical advantages, the poverty and racial divide are huge. We ( Canada) opened our borders for Americans who are double vexed or present a COVID free test are allowed in. But, we’re not allowed in the us. Their borders are still closed.
    In Alberta the hospitals are over run with cases and are beginning to triage for care. The military is being called in and they have 48% of Canada’s cases as they are only about 50% vaccinated.
    In BC where i am we’re almost at 80% full vax but we’re still surrounded by idiots.
    Anxiety is rampant. The cost is huge.
    Great post Ellen. While this too shall pass, it can’t happen fast enough for me!

    Liked by 4 people

    • The decisions governments are making make so little sense to me–and that’s not ever talking about the decisions individuals are making. I’d at least expect some reciprocity at borders between countries where there isn’t a massive difference in infection rates. It’s not as if we’re talking about New Zealand here.

      Anxiety is rampant, but I’ve started to worry more about the people who aren’t anxious and just want to get on with life. In the middle of a pandemic. A little anxiety can keep people alive.

      Liked by 1 person

    • You don’t WANT to enter the US right now. I am in Michigan, which is the Alabama of the north, especially when it comes to vaccination rates. We are sitting at 39%!!!! That’s up 2% since it officially became approved. Our bodies, our choice. Unless, of course, you are talking about the uterus.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Right. My body, my choice to infect other people.

        Way back in prehistory, someone (I think one of the Supreme Court justices) said, “My rights end where the other fellow’s nose begins.” In the battle over masks, that’s quite literally true–or should be.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hey Wenelsey. That makes me so sad. It’s crazy. I told an antivaxxer who was telling me about their body and their choice etc….I said. Hey, I completely understand. I’m pro-choice too. I’m not sure they appreciated it but you’re so right about that free for all uterus!! Hi btw.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Faye, I’d rather be in Canada than here (the U.S.). Glad you’re open for the properly vaccinated! There is a world of difference in being out and about in Maryland (near DC) and almost anywhere in Ohio (where I’ve recently been for about six weeks).

      Liked by 3 people

    • Double vexed sounds about right. I sincerely hope your visitors from the US are from the Plains and upper Northwest…because, talk about rules that keep changing: Here in Virginia, those who were double vaxxed for last year’s COVID are the young active people being hospitalized with this year’s COVID. If people from the East Coast or California are visiting youall, MERCY, you’re for it.

      It’s logical, sort of, according to the understood (by those who went to university in the Eighties) principles of immunology. Overstimulating our immune systems to fight the virus we’ve already had has left some of us wide open to the new mutation.

      What can you do but stay vaxxed, stay distanced, and if people from my part of the world persist in visiting you, avoid us like the plague…we’ll deserve it.

      However, the real risk still seems to be that most people are highly resistant to all coronavirus, even this one, and refuse to quarantine themselves when “even if what I’m feeling is a virus it can’t be much of one–drinking coffee too soon feels worse than this does, really!” One person’s bad mood is another’s fatal pneumonia. So there we all still are.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Hi Priscilla. As we move indoors for winter I’m sure we’ll see a lot more people sick. My basic strategy in public is to wear my mask and keep some distance between me and the next guy. We have no idea who’s from where or who’s been vaxxed and not. My understanding is that visitors from the US coming into Canada are checked for vaccination. There were issues of some saying they were traveling to Alaska but then wondered off the trail…sigh… Stay well and keep your distance.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I am most appreciative of any posts and, of course, found these stats about the US interesting. The concept of life without Covid worry is as foreign to me as most of your info on Great Britain, but I would so love to be past it – whatever past it will mean.
    Regardless, I hope you are busy with your new book instead of crises at home. Now I will have to worry about you, too. Pretty says I was born to worry…so you don’t need to worry.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hurrah for Ireland and its view on vaccinations !

    In understandable terms – though not relevant to Britain – the state of Alabama has announced that for the first time in more than a century (since the last pandemic ??) the total number of births in the state in 2020 was less than the total deaths.
    (See my previous Darwin graphic)

    When I was a kid and iodine was a more commonly used antiseptic, it seems the label clearly showed a skull and crossbones.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Now that you mention that about the iodine, I do seem to remember it. That may be the difference between gargling, which I believe is what they’re recommending, and drinking, which is what you have to figure a four-year-old would do if not painting Mommy or Daddy’s nice new sweater with it.


  4. Very good read. Like a damned if you do, damned if you don’t type of situation. Absolutely nothing with questioning what is going on around us in this world today.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m all for people questioning what goes on in the world. It’s the people who come to crazy conclusions about it, based on random information, and then get furious with the rest of us–they’re the ones who drive me nuts.

      Liked by 1 person

        • Ouch. I don’t think the statisticians have sorted out how the Delta variant’s affecting younger people–or if they have, what they’ve written has gone over my head, which isn’t hard for it to do. But that’s a sobering snapshot of what’s happening.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Loud and clear, here. If we had reasons to want to be double-vaccinated against last year’s COVID, that’s left us more vulnerable to this year’s COVID. If we barely noticed last year’s COVID, we’ve probably had this year’s COVID already and never noticed it at all. I was having deliberately aggravated glyphosate reactions all through September and October, so when I was around people who’d been around a delta-variant patient, y’know, what was a virus more or less.

            Only those who’ve actually collapsed are being hospitalized and nurses keep saying that at least 9 out of 10 are double-vaccinated. No data are available on people who are just at home because out of work, coughing a lot, feeling bad.

            People are tired of virus restrictions and back to a policy of “Let those at high risk quarantine themselves.” It’s not unreasonable. I’m sitting in a restaurant with nice spacious tables; last week someone brought in a busload of little tourists from Kentucky and the “family” tables with two-person benches were suddenly filled with three or four primary school kids to a bench. Most of those at real risk from COVID are already dead here, and had been expected to die this year anyway, so people are refusing to worry.

            If I were in central/western Canada or even a central/western State, I’d want a quarantine imposed on visitors from the East Coast States. We’re not afraid of COVID any more but some of us still don’t get that others may still have good reasons to be. The idea of visitors carrying this year’s COVID to Vancouver just as people are having the shots for last year’s COVID, which I got from reading a comment above, was somewhere between disgusting and appalling.

            Liked by 1 person

  5. I sympathize with the kitten situation – having a young animal is like having a young child. I’ve barely been able to write a word since I’ve had my new puppy because I have to spend so much time taking things out of her mouth and removing her from places she’s not supposed to be.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Last week, the local Council on Aging in Ohio sent someone from one of the agencies they work with to my mom’s house to do light housekeeping. My mom is 95 with congestive heart failure and using oxygen. The woman showed up without a mask, which she had left in her car. My sister told her to go get it. She did and it was a gaiter style mask as porous as a pair of pantyhose and she only covered her mouth. I was also in the house with my mask on. I asked the housecleaner if she was vaccinated and she said no. Now, this is what I find galling: these people will talk about how it is their right to mask or not mask. It is NOT their right to come into a home where they will be working and not divulge vaccination status and be there unmasked. Honest to God … the agency should let clients know that information — I don’t need the person’s name — because it is our right to decide if we want to take that risk. Did I mention that my mom is 95 and using oxygen????

    Liked by 2 people

    • At least you know whom to sue. Vaccinated or naturally immune people can be carriers too, as can inanimate objects, but that home care providers would go from house to house without even showing respect for patients’ feelings is horrible.

      Those agencies…I knew a little girl with cerebral palsy who spent a summer in the burn unit because the agency sent out someone who thought all curly hair had to be straightened with harsh chemicals, and let the chemicals drip down over the child’s skin (and the triracial child’s hair wasn’t even all that curly). I knew a young man with an injury who was supposed to have physical therapy, but never got it because the agency couldn’t find anyone willing to work in his neighborhood. And then I knew a home nurse whom everybody always loved and wanted to adopt, for thirty years, and then *one* Alzheimer’s patient forgot having given the woman some junk and reported that the woman had stolen it, so this nurse could never work as a nurse again. I’m not a fan of agencies.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m with you on the agencies. There are–or have been; my information may be out of date–parts of Cornwall where the agencies won’t send a home health aide because, basically, it’s not worth it–they’re too isolated, so it’s not profitable. And they’ve cut back on the time the aides can spend with the patients, and added to the paperwork.


  7. Yep, spread too thin, prioritize, and the blog goes. I’ve done that too, but I retired yesterday and after two pretty nutty years at work (well, more if I’m honest), I’m enjoying visiting and reading and hope soon to write again…It’s a crazy time and I love your stats.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. The vast majority of those taking up hospital beds here are the unvaccinated, yet we’re seeing a rise in anti-vaccine protests, which are becoming quite aggressive. Yet the police just stand by and watch, giving them carte blanche to behave as violently as they want. They’ll take horse dewormer but not a vaccine? Idiots.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There are always some problems with new vaccines. There were some scary problems with the COVID vaccines. By now most if not all the problem batches have been destroyed; the only concern should be that existing vaccines don’t touch new mutations and/or that vaccines for diseases you’ve already had can be dangerous…Basic immunology, as taught to undergraduates in the Eighties, seems to be very difficult for older or less educated people to learn.

      Liked by 1 person

      • What I’ve read about the vaccines for people who’ve had Covid is that they broaden the immunity that comes from having had the disease. Unfortunately, immunity–either natural or from vaccines–doesn’t seem to last as long as we’d like. I’ve read that there’s work being done on a universal coronavirus vaccine, but it sounds like that’s a long way away.

        Like everyone else, I would so like this to be over.


  9. Dear Ellen,
    we suppose Covid-19 will stay. Nevertheless we think we can forget it when most of the people worldwide are vaccinated – well, most means around 80%.
    Intersting your reflections about the US. Thank you.
    All the best
    The Fab Four of Cley
    :-) :-) :-) :-)

    Liked by 1 person

    • We have a long way to go before most of the world is vaccinated–a long, long way. I haven’t read anything recently on how many people will have to have immunity, either from exposure of vaccination, before we reach herd immunity, but last I did read Delta variant had raised the estimates.

      Sigh. Crazy times we live in. Take care of yourself until we get there, okay?

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Pingback: A complete multimedia for future doctorsWhat will it mean if Covid stops being a pandemic? — Notes from the U.K.Medico Media

  11. Pingback: A complete multimedia for future doctorsWhat will it mean if Covid stops being a pandemic? — Notes from the U.K.Medico Media

    • I agree–I miss pre-pandemic life sharply–but I don’t want to do it at the cost of thousands of lives. Britain, at least, has loosened restrictions far too early. Masks in public spaces aren’t harmful. They’re a nuisance, yes, but they do save lives. The sanitizing is also a nuisance, and I’m reasonably sure it’s less useful than masks. Ventilation is extremely useful, but there’s less emphasis on that because it costs money–although having said that, I was on a bus in Exeter and they’d fitted new high slit windows that don’t close, so that no matter what the bus will be ventilated. I was impressed–and relieved.

      Liked by 1 person

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