Famously, our administration has said that “the COVID pandemic is over” but that COVID is still a problem. Part of this opinion is likely due to the current Omicron variants being more benign than previous flavors of the disease and a desire to allow infections of this milder version to give the population some level of herd immunity (a difficult statement to make from a political standpoint).
I just ran across this:
“Generally, what happens in the UK is reflected about a month later in the US. I think this is what I’ve sort of been seeing,” said Dr. Tim Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology at Kings College London.
The “Zoe Study”, which has been running since the days of the first lockdown in England in 2020, has accurately captured the start of each wave, and its numbers run about one to two weeks ahead of official government statistics.
After seeing a downward trend for the past few weeks, the Zoe study saw a 30% increase in reported Covid-19 cases within the past week. “Our current data is definitely showing this is the beginning of the next wave,” Spector said.
In the US, some models have predicted that Covid-19 cases will begin to rise again in October and continue to increase into the winter. Experts are hopeful that because most of the population now has some underlying immunity to the coronavirus, this wave would be less deadly than we’ve seen in previous winters.
Immunity also waning in the United States, and Americans have also been slow to get boosted. Just 35% of those for whom a booster is recommended have had one (and presumably even fewer have had their Omicron-specific booster), according to CDC data.
So, here’s my personal take after recently spending six months traveling to over 40 countries and comparing how they were handling COVID. While there was some masking still going on in Central America, most of Europe had completely abandoned masking and any semblance of observing “social distancing”.
So, from a global (excluding Asia) standpoint, there is little stomach for more constraints and my guess is that it would take a super-dangerous variant to change things at this point. The same is likely true for most of Africa. Asia is beginning to open up, with Thailand doing away with vaccination and testing requirements and both Hong Kong and Japan greatly loosening up their laws to allow tourism back in. China (home to a quarter of the earth’s population) seems to be the major country still taking the war against COVID seriously at the population level. I am beginning to think that a large part of that is now political theatre.
On a personal level, both my wife and I have had a total of five COVID vaccinations in the past two years (the two original ones plus three boosters). All were Moderna and only the last one caused any significant side effects (like bad colds, but not as bad as, say the flu). We timed our last shot to “leave room” for an additional booster should it seem necessary before we leave again in mid-January.
Yeah - that leaving thing. We spent the six months on a ship. Everyone, passengers and crew, had been fully vaccinated, tested before boarding (and at 1-2 week intervals) and most had a booster (we picked up a second booster along the way which may have given us extra protection). A fair amount of social distancing and total masking was practiced at the beginning of the cruise, but once the ship got to Europe, many sort of abandoned the practices and the cruise line stopped attempting to enforce the practices. We continued to mask and practice a reasonable level of social distancing and we were among the exceptions as (by my estimation) roughly 75% of both the passengers and the crew were infected by COVID during the trip - almost all after the mitigation techniques were discontinued. It was a sort of COVID lab where I could predict who would show up with COVID in a week by observing how they were acting.
In any case, today, few cruise lines demand vaccinations, masking, distancing or even do testing. IMHO, anyone who takes a cruise of any length under today’s conditions (who hasn’t had COVID in the preceding couple of months) is very likely to come home with a COVID infection. How they fare after being infected will depend on whether their booster shots are up to date. Unmasked airplane trips are likely providing greater than average exposure as well. Despite our vaccination status, we continue to wear KN95 masks (along with all of the Asians, but few else, in our neighborhood). After a few years of this, it’s no different than putting on a belt or a hat (and seems to be as pragmatic as it seems useful in keeping us from catching the disease).
Anyhow, they say forewarned is forearmed, so don’t take COVID for granted this winter - while its symptoms may be milder than iin the past, “long COVID” is still a concern.