4 lessons from the early pandemic that no longer apply
Back in the blissfully naive days of early 2020, when you heard about the emerging pandemic and the coming lockdowns, you might have thought to yourself: I really don’t want to get Covid-19, so I’ll just be extremely careful for a while and wait till the virus goes away — then I’ll go back to normal!
The public health messaging seemed to support this wait-it-out strategy. People were told to stay home as much as possible, “flatten the curve” so as not to overwhelm our local hospitals, and hang tight until the vaccines arrived.
Now, the vaccines have arrived (for those of us fortunate enough to be in a rich country, at least). But the reality is bleaker than we’d hoped. “Covid is not going away,” said Krutika Kuppalli, an infectious disease expert at the Medical University of South Carolina. “It’s going to be endemic.” That means the virus will keep circulating in parts of the global population for years, but it’ll come down to relatively manageable levels, so it becomes more like the flu than a world-stopping disease.
It’s important to note that for an infectious disease to be classed in the endemic phase, the rate of infections has to more or less stabilize across years (though occasional increases, say, in the winter, are expected).
The delta variant, however, has been causing infections to surge in a massive way. And most of the global population doesn’t yet have immunity, whether through vaccination or infection, so susceptibility is still high.
“We have to remember that we are still in a pandemic with this virus,” said Jen Kates, director of global health and HIV policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation. “We’re not yet at a point where we’re living with endemic Covid. When we get to that point some of this will be much easier, but we’re not there. We’re not totally on a clear path here.”
This is partly why many people are confused as to how they should be thinking about the virus these days. America is past the early phase of the pandemic — and the messaging of the early phase has not set us up well to deal with the current phase. But we’re also not yet in the endemic phase, so we can’t quite act as if Covid-19 is an everyday virus, like a bad cold or flu.Post too long. Click here to view the full text.