When is all this nonsense going to be over? Don’t you want to know? Everyone wants to get back to normal and, with several highly effective (per initial trials) vaccines beginning distribution, we can kinda, sorta, if we squint real hard, see an end. Maybe soon? When this started it seemed like it wouldn’t be a big deal. Then it seemed like it would be a big deal that would end in a few months and then with all the news and restrictions and arguments it took on a feel of eternal reality. We have always been fighting COVID and always will be. It will mutate and be here forever and in some vague way be dangerous enough to affect our lives forever.

That’s nonsense of course. It seems that way because so much of our attention is focused on it. Eventually it will be “over”, not in the sense that the virus will be extinct (that will never happen) but in quotation marks; it will be background noise and no longer command our attention. I mean, people still get syphilis but unless you have it, you never think about it.

If you look at the death curves at this point in time you could be forgiven for thinking this will rage on indefinitely. I’ve had discussions with non medical people who tell me this will be going on for a “very long time”. They refuse to commit to what “very long time” means in months, but clearly it must be 6 months at least, and likely they are feeling it as years.

A relative of mine who is a real (i.e. practicing) doctor, very evidence based, believes (or did believe when last we spoke about it) that this situation will still be a massive bother through the summer; I think because that is the likely timeline for getting the 80% of the population vaccinated needed for herd immunity.

But what if the epidemic phase of this horror show is close to over even without vaccinations? I contend that it is, and that with or without vaccination this winter would most likely be the last big COVID-19 season. Why? Well, first let me concede that Yogi Berra is very much right about how difficult it is to make predictions, and anything can happen, so yes I know I will be wrong.

That said, per my previous post on Hong Kong flu, historically pandemics have not “ended” at the calculated herd immunity numbers. They have ended much earlier. Based on Hong Kong flu I estimated that COVID-19 would tire itself out when about 20% of the population had had it. By several estimates we may already be there or close or beyond. There is a lot of slop in that idea, because it isn’t clear what to compare in terms of “people who’ve had it”. In 1968 we did not have PCR, so we could not find asymptomatic people who had a viral nucleic acid fragment in their schnozes. When we see the 15% estimate for Hong Kong flu it’s not clear to me what the methodology was and if it included estimates of asymptomatic people.

But it is clear to me that the number of people who must “get it” before this ends is closer to 20% than 80%. If it is symptomatic cases then I say closer to 20%. If it counts people who maybe shed some virus but didn’t notice it then maybe more like 40%. We are probably over 20% for the latter category already.

The second bit of historic evidence that says this winter is going to be the “end” is that respiratory virus pandemics don’t last multiple years.

https://www.history.com/news/1918-flu-pandemic-never-ended

Yes I see that the pandemic never ended. That strain is still around but towards the end:

“The 1918 pandemic struck in three distinct waves over a 12-month period. It first appeared in the spring of 1918 in North America and Europe largely in the trenches of World War I, then reemerged in its deadliest form in the fall of 1918, killing tens of millions of people worldwide from September through November. The final wave swept across Australia, the United States and Europe in the late winter and spring of 1919.”

followed by:

“…Slightly altered versions of the 1918 flu reemerged in the winters of 1919-1920 and 1920-1921, but they were far less deadly and nearly indistinguishable from the seasonal flu.”

So yes, while right now in my state of California it looks like it’s going up up up and there is no end in sight, we may be in for a nice surprise soon. I think the US as a whole will be in remission late winter early spring at latest. California may drag on longer than the rest if only because we have been so good (too good IMO) at slowing it down but not so good (so far) at vaccinating people.

But that’s just my stupid optimism talking. What do you think?

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