A new Kaiser Family Foundation poll shows that half of us Americans think the days of COVID waves are over. Only a third of us think we face a new wave of infections. Which group is right?
Is COVID over? Or are we in a new wave? You decide.
NBC news announced at 4:33 pm on May 4th that we Americans had reached over a million COVID deaths. Yes, a million deaths. From COVID.
That’s more deaths than any other nation on the planet. In fact, we’ve had more deaths from COVID than the deaths of Americans in all of the wars of the 20th Century combined.
But that’s not all. We’ve had more deaths than our annual deaths by auto accident, household accident, murder, the common flu, AND the seven biggest wars of the 20th century combined.
But the real question of the moment is this: is COVID over? Can you relax, throw away your mask and go to sports matches, concerts, restaurants, and bars? In other words, has COVID become a normal illness like the common cold, a disease that’s a nuisance, but doesn’t kill you.
The answer is simple: we don’t know. And we won’t know for another few weeks. Why?
COVID cases are rocketing upward in 46 states. In five states, the number of COVID cases has doubled in the last two weeks. Those states are Indiana, West Virginia, Hawaii, Oregon, and North Carolina. On the other hand, hospitalizations are at one of their lowest ebbs since the pandemic began.
Does this mean that we can let down our guard and go back to socializing the way we used to? Apparently not quite yet.
On the positive side, a study published in one of the journals of the American Medical Association looked at 528 football games with limited attendance and social distancing and found these games did not produce rises in COVID-19. So you may be able to go back to outdoor sports events. If the stadium is set up for social distancing.
But most other social settings still pose a risk. For example, the White House Correspondents Dinner took place on Saturday April 30th. 2,600 people of importance crowded into the Washington Hilton. But unlike the football games, the event was indoors. In fact, it was in a subterranean ballroom.
COVID rules were strictly enforced. Every guest had to show two things: proof of vaccination and the results of a COVID test taken earlier in the day. No way COVID was going to get through this defense, right?
Wrong. ABC’s chief Washington correspondent Jonathan Karl, Voice of America’s chief national correspondent Steve Herman and staffers from CNN, NBC News, CBS News and Politico tested positive for COVID after the dinner. And ABC’s Jonathan Karl shook hands with president Joe Biden, meaning that he may have exposed the president to COVID.
Meanwhile, American Secretary of State Antony Blinken just tested positive for COVID. Two weeks ago, White House spokesperson Jen Psaki tested positive for COVID. Three days later, Vice President Kamala Harris tested positive for COVID.
And yesterday a U.S. bankruptcy judge in Delaware, Judge John Dorsey, figured the coast is clear and had his first live court session since the early days of the COVID pandemic. It did not go well. Said the judge, the in-person court hearing “resulted in several people being diagnosed with COVID.”
But flip the coin to the other side and you see that very few of the famous who make headlines when they come down with COVID have died of it.
Which leads us back to the reason we don’t yet know if the new variants of COVID are killers. COVID kicks in between two and fourteen days after you’re infected, and doesn’t send you to the hospital until 3 to ten days after you’re infected. So there’s a lag between the day the virus gets into your system and the day you are sent to the hospital or the morgue.
There’s a lag before you go from testing positive to becoming a death statistic. So we won’t know if the new COVID mutations are killers until the end of May.
What’s more, we are up against at least five new COVID variants, variants more infectious than any earlier COVID mutations. These new variants are BA.2, BA.2.12, and BA.2.12.1. Not to mention two new variants that are taking off in South Africa, BA.4 and BA.5
We are experiencing death tolls of 340 Americans a day. Over ten thousand deaths a month. That’s bad, but it’s way down from more than 5,000 deaths a day on February 4th, 2021.
Cautions founder and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, Eric Topol, COVID “hospitalizations have increased” roughly 35% since their mid-April low point and are “now pushing 18,000.” Said Topol on May 4th, “today was the largest…increase since January;” Topol opines that the virus “keeps getting fitter and more transmissible, while our human qualities of fatigue and complacency feed right into the virus’s remarkable opportunism.”
So is it time to forget about COVID and go on about your business? Or is that just wishful thinking? In another three weeks when the number of deaths from the new variants comes in, we will know.
Howard Bloom has been called the Einstein, Newton, and Freud of the 21st century by Britain’s Channel 4 TV. One of his seven books–Global Brain—was the subject of a symposium thrown by the Office of the Secretary of Defense including representatives from the State Department, the Energy Department, DARPA, IBM, and MIT. His work has been published in The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Wired, Psychology Today, and the Scientific American. He does news commentary at 1:06 am et every Wednesday night on 545 radio stations on Coast to Coast AM. For more, see http://howardbloom.institute