Bearing Witness to the Pandemic November 2022

Approaching three years into the pandemic, some 300-400 Americans are still dying each and every day across the country from COVID-related illnesses.  More than 25,000 are hospitalized. This year’s death toll has exceeded 200,000. The good news is that now only 1 in 200,000 infections leads to death compared to 1 in 200 at the start of the pandemic in early 2020.

A new study shows that the latest COVID bivalent booster in indeed effective, especially for older adults. Data show that it increased the levels of antibodies by about four times after one month, even though it is not tuned for the newest Omicron subvariants. Yet less than 10% of Americans over 5 years of age have received the new vaccine. Some 20% of all Americans are still completely unvaccinated.

The virus continues to mutate at rates that even surprise virologists, due in part to the increasing immunity of the populations who have already been exposed or are resistant due to vaccines. Some scientists are warning that chasing a never-ending succession of new variants with tweaked mRNA vaccines alone may not be sufficient without taking other precautions or using different strategies. They argue we may be nearing the point of diminishing returns in protecting society from each new variant and subvariant.

Some counties across the US are reporting an increase in cases that is beginning to stress hospitals which are already overflowing from a tripledemic of flu, RSV, and Covid patients.

This year families are finally able to gather for a more normal Thanksgiving Holiday with travel back to near pre-pandemic levels. It was a year ago, when many of us thought things would be finally safe to celebrate a normal holiday, that the new Omicron variant began spreading at an alarming rate. Omicron would go on to create the largest and longest wave of infections, hospitalizations, and cumulative deaths.

Nearly three years later, there is still debate about the origins of Coronavirus SARS-Cov-2. It is clear that it emerged in Wuhan, China, which was the epicenter. But was this zoonotic virus originally from a wet market, or leaked out of a nearby lab, or from a roaming rodent? While there is no firm conclusion, what is more important is to understand that something like this is likely to happen again, regardless of the source, and the world needs to be better prepared.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the most trusted source of information about the pandemic during and after the Trump administration years, spoke out about misinformation as he retires at the end of this year from his illustrious career with the NIH.  Given the majority of those who died were not vaccinated, it is estimated that perhaps up to 30% of them were influenced by COVID misinformation, disinformation, or outright lies and frauds.

As China continues on with its zero-COVID policy, ten people died during a high-rise fire in building where residents were said to be confined due to the lockdown. This set off days of unrest and protest across China, a rare sight. In a scene out of a dystopian science fiction movie, Chinese police in full- body hazmat suits were seen battling protesters trying to flee from their enforced lockdown sites. Demonstrators gathered in some cities to demand that President Xi step down due to his handling of the pandemic, an astonishing development of unrest for a China that just reappointed Xi to his third term.

Despite or perhaps because of the zero-COVID policy, China is reporting tens of thousands of new cases each day across a country that has refused Western-development vaccines when its own proved much less effective. As a result, the population as a whole has little immunity to Covid from either previous infections or vaccinations. Many worry that it is likely that yet another a new variant, perhaps more infectious or deadly, will emerge and infect travelers who bring it to the rest of the world, and here we go again.

The above news items have been taken from a range of local, regional, national and international news media including print, broadcast, and digital sources, but no social media. Additional editorial opinions and comments about these news items are those of this author.

The featured image is from CDC Covid Tracker showing the trends in confirmed deaths in the US since the pandemic began.

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