Thursday, February 11, 2021

How Long Is the Pandemic Likely to Last?

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Health, Medicine, Society

Ed Hessler

One of the questions about the COVID-19 pandemic we would like answered is "how long will it last?" even though we know that we can't know the true answer. In the meantime we can seek out those who study pandemics and this pandemic and listen to their wise words about the future..

CNN Opinion, had a feature by Dr. Nicholas Christakis, physician and social scientist at Yale University. In this video (4m 30s) he discusses the legacy COVID-19 will leave in its wake and also discusses the future course of the disease.  His current research is mainly focused on two topics: (1) the social, mathematical, and biological rules governing how social networks form (“connection”), and (2) the social and biological implications of how they operate to influence thoughts, feelings, and behaviors (“contagion”).  This is a "darker" discussion than we perhaps want to hear but it is one that is likely closer to reality.

Do you need another reason than this video to want and seek a pharmaceutical intervention--a vaccination--and to take seriously and practice non-pharmaceutical interventions (making, social distancing, avoiding crowds and closed spaces, washing your hands, using hand-sanitizer). Attaining hedr immunity is going to require these daily practices.

Olga Khazan, staff writer for The Atlantic, notes this huge IF regarding herd immunity" "If the coronavirus vaccine is 75 percent effective--which would be excellent, considering that the flu shot is only about 50 percent effective--roughly two-thirds of the population would need to be effected, according to Paul Offit, the director of the Vaccine Education Center (VEC) at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. That number is enough to reach herd immunity--the level at which everyone is protected because there are not enough vulnerable to pass between." (Full article here.)

Keep in mind that Christakis set himself a difficult task. The virus is likely to surprise us as we engage with it in this cat-and-mouse game. It has no conscious strategies. The American Museum of Natural History explains (see VISTA) the basics of how natural selection works.

Of great concern is human impatience in the time it will take to get to the "new semi-normal."

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