The worst is yet to come
Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the grocery store, get ready for a second big wave of COVID-19. COVID-19 is the second biggest killer in the United States right now, just behind heart disease. That’s about to change, and COVID will presently (within the next month or two) become America’s number one killer.
As I write this, there are 6,460,250 known cases of COVID-19 in the United States. Coronavirus has caused, to date, 193,250 American deaths. According to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), an additional 225,000 Americans will die due to COVID by early December.
Recall that the IHME is the entity that the White House used to quote because it had (and still has) the least extreme statistics. Now that the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus has gotten so far out of control, the White House tends to avoid the topic altogether, and has shuffled Dr. Fauci and his more ineffectual colleague Dr. Birx off the stage. When statistics are unavoidable, Trump makes them up these days, because even the IHME stats — the Fox News of scientific disease reporting, if you will — are beginning to look grim indeed.
According to the IHME, only about 20% of Americans infected with SARS-CoV-2 have been detected. This means (conservatively speaking) that over thirty million Americans are coronavirus positive, or about 9% of the population. Now that restrictions are loosening and children are returning to school, we can expect a dramatic upsurge in the number of cases. Since surges in cases are a leading indicator of surges in deaths, expect the daily death toll to increase from a thousand a day to three thousand a day by October, or one September 11th size tragedy every single day of the week.
Meanwhile “operation warp speed” — Trump’s propaganda-laden nonsense promising a “miracle” vaccine — is filling people with unrealistic hope. Even if a vaccine were discovered today, it would be a practical impossibility to test it and distribute it in less than a year. (Think of the fact that after six months the government still hasn’t adequately distributed PPE.) Also, there may in fact be no vaccine for coronavirus, just as there is no vaccine for the common cold. Evidence is gathering that people who get coronavirus can get it again, that is, there may exist no human immunity to the disease.
When you add to the already grim news that many COVID-19 survivors suffer life-changing permanent effects, including, but not limited to, cardiovascular impairment, neurotoxic, hepatotoxic and gastrointestinal deterioration, the implications of this disease are justly frightening. Our collective sigh of relief isn’t just premature, it’s dangerous.
So be careful. Now that many more people are wearing masks in public, that most emphatically does not mean you are free to compensate by forgetting about social distancing. In England I’ve noticed it myself. Suddenly I’m no longer the only one in the grocery store wearing a mask. But because there are so many mask-wearers, people are less inclined to be cautious in other ways, and more inclined to squeeze past me in an aisle rather than wait for when it’s safe. More and more they’re reaching around me for items on a shelf.
Remember, social distance, wash (or disinfect) your hands, wear a mask and use common sense. You must remain vigilant at all times. You cannot just be 99% careful. Coronavirus only requires one mistake. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.