Many Americans probably have been dreaming of a day in the not-too-distant future when we've beaten the coronavirus, and life can return to normal. That, however, is not likely to happen, according a report by Dr. Sanjay Gupta at CNN. Bottom line: The virus and the disease it causes, COVID-19, are here to stay, and we are going to have to learn to live with them -- or, in many cases, learn to deal with the deaths they cause. That sobering news arrives as another report suggests those who wish to play the blame game have an appropriate target for finger-pointing. As for Gupta, he writes:
What's becoming clear is that we, locally and globally, are not going to be able to stamp out the coronavirus completely. Experts predict it's going to become endemic, possibly joining the other four or so common cold coronaviruses in circulation."We're not going to eradicate this coronavirus like we've done with smallpox; it is something that I think is going to settle into a more seasonal pattern, like the flu and colds ..." said Linsey Marr, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech and an expert in the transmission of infectious diseases via aerosols."But right now, because it's novel and so many people are not immune to it, it's really ripping through the population. But I think five years from now, we will have much greater immunity either through vaccination or natural infection," she said. That means we are going to have to learn to "dance" with the virus -- a safe co-existence -- without constantly stepping on each other's toes.
The Gupta report comes less than two weeks after award-winning author Kurt Eichenwald tweeted that COVID-19 now was a "forever disease." From the Eichenwald tweet, dated 8/8/21:
Scientists are whispering - and some are saying out loud: COVID is now a forever disease. It was allowed to rage unchecked for too long in 2020 because of politics & stupidity; the only way to stop it in 2021 was a rapid-fire, government-wide, dual-party vaccine push. GQP...1
Eichenwald and his sources, it appears, were right on target.
Many articles, and probably quite a few books, likely will be written about that time back in 2021 when we had the tools (vaccines and masks) and the leadership (Biden) to permanently beat COVID, but we blew it. For now, we are left to fill in the blanks on the story, and this is what I take the Gupta story and the Eichenwald tweet to mean: We had a window when a disciplined, society-wide attack could have wiped out the virus. But too many Americans allowed their white, conservative, insular thinking to override any concern about the common good -- and now, with the Delta variant raging around the country, the window of opportunity has closed. Here is more from the CNN Gupta report:
Dancing with Covid-19Like with other diseases, this requires tight control -- giving the virus as little freedom as possible so as not to set the stage for the surge of sickness and death we experienced last winter. It also means finding a balance between the extremes -- on the one hand, lockdowns that trigger economic and personal chaos, and on the other, putting the rights of individuals above the good of society as a whole -- and moving toward the middle. That way we can more safely enjoy all of life's pleasures -- family gatherings, live sports and arts events, travel, indoor dining -- with only minor inconveniences, like vaccines and masks, during times of substantial viral spread."Let's be creative with making adjustments to life, rather than saying it's all or none, because that was kind of the feeling last year," said Dr. Jeremy Faust, an emergency physician at Brigham and Women's Hospital and an instructor at Harvard Medical School.So, what can and should we be doing now and into the fall to make sure we follow the path to living well with the virus? Over the past couple weeks, we spoke to experts in the world of pandemic preparedness, infectious diseases and virology to try and get guidance on how to best and most safely live our lives going into the fall. Many of these experts live with the same concerns as everyone else, including managing the safety of unvaccinated children, and balancing the risk, given the Delta variant, with a deep desire to live a more normal life.While nearly everyone is reluctant to make predictions nowadays, there was agreement on five strategies to be put in place. I have included our conversations, their specific reasoning, and the evidence to bolster the claims.
Here is a summary of key steps experts shared with Gupta:
We can start with the global pandemic. COVID-19 is a potentially deadly virus that has caused — and continues to cause — dire woe. Surely, to be moral in the face of such a dangerous disease is to do everything one can — within one's limited power — to thwart it. No moral person would want to willfully spread it, bolster it, or prolong its existence. And yet, when it comes to the battle against COVID-19, it is the most secular of Americans who are doing what they can to wipe it out, while it is the most faithful among us, especially nationalistic white Evangelicals, who are keeping it alive and well. Taking the vaccine saves lives and thwarts the spread of the virus. So, too, does sheltering in place as directed and wearing protective face masks. And yet, here in the U.S., it is generally the most religious among us who refuse to adhere to such life-saving practices, while it is the most secular who most willingly comply. For example, a recent Pew study found that while only 10% of atheists said that they would definitely or probably not get vaccinated, 45% of white Evangelicals took such a position.
The Wall Street Journal has more on the Evangelical response to an existential threat:
More than six months into the country’s Covid-19 vaccination campaign, evangelical Christians are more resistant to getting the vaccine than other major religious groups, according to newly released data.
Some 24% of white evangelicals said in June they wouldn’t be vaccinated, down from 26% in March, according to a study from the Public Religion Research Institute, a nonpartisan group that studies the intersection of religion and public life, and Interfaith Youth Core, a nonprofit focused on interfaith cooperation.
Evangelicals of all races make up about one-quarter of the U.S. population, and health officials say persuading them to get the shot is crucial to slowing the spread of the Delta variant fueling recent increases in Covid-19 cases.
The percentage of white evangelicals who say they have been vaccinated or plan to get the shot as soon as possible was 56% in June, up from 45% in March. That is tied for the lowest figure among groups included in the survey, along with Hispanic protestants, many of whom are evangelical.