With people choosing to live with COVID as the new normal, things don't look good for this winter

"What will happen in our third pandemic winter, as omicron continues to evolve and many people ditch their masks?

"Only time will tell. But already there are some warning signs that we could be faced with yet another wave of infections, hospitalizations and deaths. For one, cases and hospitalizations are [increasing in some European countries] including the United Kingdom.

“What happens across the pond usually portends what will happen in the United States. At the national level and in most states, cases are still going down. But experts worry that may not hold true for long, as temperatures drop and more people gather indoors where the coronavirus is more likely to spread.”

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Just got the latest covid booster this afternoon. Only side effect is a sore arm where they jabbed me, which is a laughably small price to pay.

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While the implication that we are seeing is that there is nothing to be concerned about if we are dealing with the Omicron variant. Just as, over the years, there have been many “flavors” of the flu - ranging from the 1918 Spanish to the Avian to more benign ones, our memories of the terror of the original Wuhan version of COVID, followed a year later by the Delta version are considered “things of the past” and both the US and Europe are in the process of breathing a sigh of relief.

The original fatality rates, pre-therapies and vaccines was running 3%-5% mortality rate. Extrapolating that across our population would have netted between 9M-15M dead rather than the 1M we have so far. While not nearly as bad as the 14th Century Black Death which took 30%-50% of Europe’s population, it’s still an order of magnitude worse than a bad flu season.

So, the question is whether all subsequent COVID variants will be more benign or will a small new tweak to the spike pattern make it both more contagious and more virulent?

I remember the days of wearing not only masks, but gloves and carrying sanitizing wipes to clean door knobs and elevator buttons. Of staying 6 feet from everyone else. And, despite the theatrics, it did work and we avoided catching COVID for three years. We are now the only ones in sight (excluding Asians, who seem to be cut some slack because, well, they are Chinese after all - as if that exempts them from the rest of the crowd) who are still wearing masks. And we are still avoiding COVID. We have both had a total of five shots each (the first pair and three boosters).

That said, getting the rest of the population of the United States to take COVID seriously after even the president of the current administration pronounced the pandemic over is questionable. Add to that the fact that much of the federal COVID funding is in the process of drying up. Free masks, rapid tests, free vaccines, subsidized labs and so on seem to be on the verge of disappearing and the emergency proclamations are expiring. If the virus is reading the papers, it should realize that it no longer has a place in our national consciousness.

But, I fear it is as illiterate as it is capricious and, after acquiring the record of the worst COVID outcome of any major nation on earth, we may find ourselves scrambling for the political will to reestablish our national protection.

Jeff

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