The one last scare, from America’s perspective, is the Delta variant. If we can remain stable or improving once Delta takes over, then barring another even more infectious variant, we’ve won. If and where we can’t do that, it’s not over.
That’s the question. How much Delta is out there already, how much worse is it, and will that be enough to undo our work? If it is, how long until further vaccinations can turn things around again?
Before I look into that, let’s run the numbers.
A while back, LessWrong poster Aysajan put up a post asking to be someone’s apprentice. He talked about it with johnswentworth, who I recently confirmed via meeting him in person is awesome and does reliably interesting work, and an apprentice experiment was born.
Logistics note: This week’s post includes some non-time-sensitive items from last week, including much of the section on the lab leak hypothesis, as my available time last week was limited. Also, I’ll be in NYC from 6/11 until 6/16, so if you’d like to chat, let me know – I promise asking will cost you at most zero points.
Covid-19 is not quite done with the United States of America. The Indian variant (“Delta”) delivering a ‘one last scare’ moment is plausible. But unless there’s a new variant that can escape from the mRNA vaccines and we are unable to respond rapidly enough, a possibility I now put at most at 10%, Covid-19 is mostly done with the United States of America.
There are essentially three things left.
- Live life. There’s the question of how we can safely transition back to a normal life here in the good old USA, and what that new normal life will look like. This includes how worried we should be about potential future strains or issues of seasonality.
- Rest of the world. Covid-19 is probably mostly done with the USA. Other countries without our vaccine access are not so fortunate. It is quite plausible that the majority of deaths from Covid-19 are in the future rather than the past.
- Postmortem. There’s the question of how we can learn from what happened. We need to adjust our models of the world, and what methods we can use to make sense of it or change it for the better. We also specifically need to do what we can to deal properly with the next pandemic or other crisis. Thus questions like the origins of the virus and what to do about what seems like the absurdly terrible idea that is Gain of Function research.
Infections and deaths continue to decline. There is no sign that the change in mask policy or anything else is going to blunt that, or that the control system is attempting to reassert itself. We’re winning.
If you’re reading for ‘news you can use’ there isn’t any beyond ‘news is good.’ It’s safe to relax.
(Personal note: My Facebook account was hacked. Attacker has not contacted me, and deleted my name from the profile. Since I am already Against Facebook I do not view this as a great loss unless it leads to further trouble, but readers should be aware that for now I have no Facebook account. If I don’t get it back, I may or may not create a new one.)
We are now a second week into The Great Unmasking, with no sign of trouble in the case numbers. While it ain’t over till it’s over and I’m not quite prepared yet to outright declare victory. On reflection my criteria for V-A day is ‘I notice I am acting the exact same way I would if I was unvaccinated, provided everyone else was OK with that’ and we’re definitely not there yet. Still, it seems likely that in America it’s all over but the shouting and I see a lady preparing to sing.
The CDC has lifted its mask mandate for vaccinated people. In one fell swoop, it is suddenly fine for anyone fully vaccinated to go maskless anywhere, without social distancing, at any time, so long as regulations and rules permit it. This retains the madness of ignoring partial vaccination entirely, and the madness of making children as young as two (!) wear masks around groups of fully vaccinated adults, but it is certainly a huge step towards sanity. It also implies that the rules and regulations that remain need to be changed, and many of them are indeed being changed.
Reactions were mixed.
There was much rejoicing. Many cried tiers of joy. Others pointed out that this was a damn good reason to get vaccinated.
If this is relevant to your interests, you can read it at CoolStuffInc here.
For over a year, Covid-19 has been the central fact of life.
The goal now is to make that no longer true.
If you’re reading this, chances are very high you are vaccinated. If you’re not reading this, but you live in the United States, chances are still pretty good you’re vaccinated.
The question everyone is asking is now, can life return fully to normal?
The Biden administration’s latest strategy for the pandemic is to suspend the vaccine patents without compensation. Our life expectancies are lower than they were last week.
Compared to expectations, excluding inevitable self-inflicted cratering of our vaccination rate, this was mostly a best realistic case scenario week. Johnson & Johnson was unpaused. India’s rate of case increases probably slowed down (they’re maxed out on testing capacity so it’s hard to know for sure). Biden seemed to come around to providing meaningful help to India and the world, at least to some extent.
Most of all, cases in America were down a lot, and it’s now clear that things are steadily improving. Unless something changes, we’re going to beat this thing at least in a large portion of the country, and do so on schedule.
The decline looks really bad though. Like the situation in India, it’s Malcom Reynolds-level worse than you know. When you look at first doses only, the lines are going straight down. If they go all the way to zero, many states and local areas won’t get to herd immunity from the vaccine.