The U.S. COVID-19 fire is still going bad – and it could get worse
In many parts of the United States, COVID-19 is heard. Unmasked citizens are waking up New York is planning an August mega-concert in Central Park. I’m as hopeful as the rest of us, but I think we may suffer from memory loss.
We started from that moment last year, when many Americans were returning exuberantly again reopened beaches, parks and restaurants after three seemingly eternal months – three whole months! – of quarantine. Universal adherence to safety guidelines was certainly enough to limit viral spread.
We know how it went. By mid-June 2020, they were there already signs that our re-emergence of white eyes was premature. On June 22, 2020, the number of nine daily cases of COVID-19 (33,485) surpassed the high water mark hit the worst day of the terrible first wave, when that figure peaked at just over 32,000.
A year later, the number of daily cases isn’t as predictable — nor is it nearly as low as it may appear.
If you look at a graph of nine daily cases of COVID-19 since March 1, 2021, on average over seven days, you will see that the slope of the curve was in sharp decline until the beginning of June. Since then, progress has been almost flat on a figure that stubbornly refuses to drop below 10,000 people a day.
You’ll notice that this chart covers only the last 12 weeks, while virtually every chart you’ll find (including the one above The TIME panel) graphs almost COVID-19 from the beginning of the fire. This is intentional. The number of pandemics in the US has persisted for so long, and has reached such catastrophic heights in the first few weeks of 2021, that models like this are almost impossible to see on typical paper. Here is what the same graph looks like on this background:
My fear is that the pandemic will remain much more deadly than what you see on the page. Yes, the dead remain in a steady decline, having recently dropped below 300 people per day on average for the first time since March 24, 2020, just around the time many offices were closing. But a source of cases, particularly among a large number of unvaccinated Americans, could quickly reverse that decline. For the context, let’s just look at the figures from March 1, 2021 against the same period last year (the blue part above):
As you can see, it’s been less than a month since the 2021 case count sank below its annual figure, on May 26th. The massive spread of vaccines nationwide is undoubtedly a major factor, but it is difficult to quantify the impact of vaccination on currently low cases and death figures. There are only weak correlations between the vaccination rates of the states and some key indicators, such as the percentage to which cases have increased or decreased in recent weeks.
What we do port quantify is that, in the 27 days since the lines crossed, the vaccination rate in the United States has only risen sharply, from 39.7% to 45.3% of Americans who have received a full dose. While the official vaccination rate applies to the entire population, data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also include percentages for various age groups. According to TIME estimates, there are 97.4 million adults 18 years and older who have been eligible for vaccination for two months but who have not yet received even a first dose. This group tends to be much younger, with those aged 65 and over representing only 7.8% of the unvaccinated population. (These figures do not include those under the age of 18, who make up a small portion of the eligible population.)
On May 13, two weeks before the numbers of daily homes in 2021 fell below annual figures from the same day in 2020, the CDC released a guide releasing fully vaccinated individuals by wearing masks in many scenarios. I do not have conclusive evidence that any of the 97.4 million unvaccinated adults in the country have abused this privilege. All I can say with confidence is that, based on the number of people I’ve seen who don’t wear a mask in places like stores, they often have imploring signs to those who aren’t completely vaccinated to continue. to mask, it is mathematically almost certain that more than a few have done so.
What this means is that the situation today, if we can momentarily get closer to Memorial Day 2020, feels very familiar. There seems to be a flashing light at the end of the tunnel, yet chivalrous attitudes towards the pandemic, especially among young people who, as a group, are under-vaccinated, resemble what we saw last summer just before the second wave .
Looking at these trends, I worry more and more every day that the country is positioned for further growth in homes, despite our defensive updates in low season. I hope I’m wrong, but the numbers aren’t nearly as comforting as they seem at first. The fact that the Delta variant, which is both more communicable and appears to cause more serious diseases, is on track to become the dominant form of COVID-19 in the United States in the coming months is another cause for alarm. In addition, some states have significantly higher vaccination rates than others, leaving those with less protection are more vulnerable to future peaks.
Forgive me for being a buzzkill, but unless we can set up a functional system of vaccine passports, that seems unlikely, I don’t think it would be prudent to assume that every individual without a mask is fully dosed. Without a passport system, and with dangerous variants competing for dominance and the duration of vaccine protection still unclear, we must continue to physical space ratio in public spaces — a policy that is being soon relaxed in places like Major League Baseball parks. I love baseball and look forward to flying back to Philadelphia to pick up a game at Citizen’s Bank Park, which is operating at full capacity. But not while the policy is that “fans who are not vaccinated are encouraged to wear their masks in all indoor and outdoor spaces around the ball stadium.”
I also think there could be a back door to a digital passport system. based on voting data, it seems that there is a substantial population of people who are not categorically opposed to vaccination, only unmotivated to surround it – what we call “meh-sitance” vaccine, no hesitation. My proposal is that bars, restaurants and other popular places only require every person who enters to verbally state that they are completely vaccinated.
This might seem as effective as asking the passengers in the exit queue to check individually that they have listened to the instructions. But while it’s one thing to ignore a sign in the store, it’s another to stand in front of your friends. Peer pressure is a powerful motivator, and if even a fraction of the unvaccinated would take the time to resolve that dissonance, or risk missing the night of trivia, it could significantly push up percentages. I call this the “FOMO method,” and even if we’re still one long, long road from the elimination of the disease throughout, could help avoid a fourth wave this summer.