Thursday, March 25, 2021

Was the COVID-19 Pandemic Peak the Final Summit?

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

Ed Hessler

For many of us the question on whether the COVID-19 pandemic has peaked is much on our minds. Cases have fallen world-wide since they peaked in January.

But questions and lingering concerns remain, amplified somewhat by the slight rise of cases.

British journal Nature science writer Smriti Mallapaty has a story about several uncertainties that is well-worth reading. There is a great graph in the beginning of his article on the rise and fall of COVID-19.

On the encouraging side are surveys that show "the hidden scale of outbreaks by including asymptomatic people who are overlooked in official counts based on testing." However an unknown is the lockdown and social distancing effect. What happens when people start mixing again?  U. S. epidemiologist Rachel Baker, Princeton University "'worries that the US is taking a strong step back from controls." Many people are susceptible to infection. Another unknown is how long immunity lasts whether it was acquired from vaccination or infection.

As more and more variants are found such as the highly infectious B.1.1.7. there is deep concern on whether a new wave of infection will result.  Mallapaty notes that "this might have already happened. There are some signs that a variant called P.1., currently sweeping Brazil, could evade pre-existing immunity and facilitate the virus's resurgence."

And in all of this is variation which can be large "within communities, says Marm Kilpatrick, an infectious-disease researcher at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Immune protection could explain the fall in some communities where people have been very highly exposed to the birus, but the drop in other communities is probably dud to people hunkering down since the holiday period in November and December. ... As some states lift restrictions, people could start to socialize again." The same is true for national variations.

As Rachel Baker notes in the closing paragraph of Mallapaty's report, "'We're in this race against time. Can we vaccinate people fast enough to that we can aboid that future peak from these more transmissible variants.'" 

That is, the race is between the variants and the vaccine. So far we (US) aren't doing so good. Too many Americans are refusing the vaccine and too many refuse to don a mask or practice social distancing.

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