It’s basically over already. It will end this October. Or maybe it won’t be over till next spring, or late next year, or two or three years down the road.
From the most respected epidemiologists to public health experts who have navigated past disease panics, from polemicists to political partisans, there are no definitive answers to the central question in American life: As a Drudge Report headline put it recently, “is it ever going to end?”
With children returning to classrooms, in many cases for the first time in 18 months, and as the highly contagious delta variant and spotty vaccination uptake send case numbers and deaths shooting upward, many Americans wonder what exactly has to happen before life can return to something that looks and feels like 2019.
The answers come in a kaleidoscopic cavalcade of scenarios, some suggested with utmost humility, others with mathematical confidence: The pandemic will end because deaths finally drop to about the same level we’re accustomed to seeing from the flu each year. Or it will end when most kids are vaccinated. Or it will end because Americans are finally exhausted by all the restrictions on daily life.
Innumerable predictions over the course of the pandemic have come up lame. Some scientists have sworn off soothsaying. But as they learn more about the coronavirus that bestowed covid-19 on mankind, they build models and make projections and describe the hurdles that remain before people can pull off the masks and go about their lives.
The good news is there is some fuel for optimism.
“I truly, truly think we are in the endgame,” said Monica Gandhi, an infectious-disease specialist and professor of medicine at the University of California at San Francisco. “The cases will start plummeting in mid- to late September and by mid-October, we will be in a manageable place, where the virus is a concern for health professionals, but not really for the general public.”
Gandhi bases her optimism on the fact that all previous epidemics of respiratory viruses have ended through the acquisition of immunity, whether by vaccination or natural infection. Although viruses do keep changing, potentially circumventing people’s defenses, “they mutate quickly, at a cost to themselves,” weakening over time. Gandhi said she believes the delta variant has hit the United States so hard that this summer will mark the peak of this virus’s strength.
But Gandhi warns she has been wrong before: In February 2020, she said the United States would not tolerate a disease that killed 100 Americans a day; people would come together to do whatever it took to stop that. That didn’t happen.
The bad news is there is too much cause for doubt.
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Source: Washington Post