Dark Winter Ahead
[Part of this column was published in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune]
The next three months will be a time of darkness in America. This will be due to COVID-19. We are entering a time when the past experiences we have had with the virus as a nation will seem more like a prologue.
As a nation we have fully entered the second wave, without ever leaving the first wave. We did not dramatically lower the virus as most other countries did. We politicized the wearing of masks, the singularly most important protection against getting and spreading the virus. So here we are.
Since March, epidemiologists have warned us that there would be a second wave in the fall when the weather got cold. This is exactly what happened with the Spanish Flu.* In that case, and very likely in the current spike in cases, the second wave is more wide-ranging and deadly.
The first wave of COVID-19 peaked on April 10 with 31,709 daily new cases. The country then flat-lined at slightly below that number until June when the second rapid increase in new cases peaked on July 19 with a daily new cases number of 66,690. In October the numbers started to increase again starting a new third rapid increase. As of 10/26, when this column is being written, we have now seen new single day numbers into the 70,000 + range, breaking the July 19 number. This is a very bad sign.
Since the second peak was a bit more than double the daily number of cases as the first one, we can assume that this will continue so that the peak we will be hitting between now and the end of the year – or perhaps well before the holidays- we will hit a daily peak number of new cases of 135,000. This also means that by the end of this year we will have some 300,000 deaths. 300,000 deaths! In less than ten months!
When we get to Inauguration Day – January 20, 2021- there will have been 12-14 million cases in the U.S., and 350-400,000 deaths.
This of course is due in part to the politization of the wearing of masks. This is one of the reasons we have become the plague nation of the world. The same epidemiologists who correctly forecast the second wave we are in, are widely stating that if 95% of Americans wore masks, starting today the above death numbers would be 50% reduced. Our collectively wearing of masks to face a common enemy would save 100,000+ lives- in the next four months!
“We are rounding the corner with the virus” is simply a statement of ignorance. Anyone who says that either does not know arithmetic or is consciously lying. We are and will continue to be the plague nation of the world. The only good public health news is that the percentage of cases that result in death has been going down. This is due to what we have learned about the virus and the treatment of it for patients that are in the hospitals. The hospitalization percentages are roughly the same as they were back in the Spring and Fall. As this column is being written hospitalizations are up in 30+ states and new cases are up in 40+ states. That is NOT rounding the corner.
So, the dark winter ahead will be from now until the end of January. This means Thanksgiving, Hanukah, Christmas and New Years Eve. The reality of not celebrating these holidays as we have in the past will only add more darkness to this time. Black Friday will not happen as it has in the past. Major retailers are setting up multiple days for scheduled shopping all through November and December. Nothing says super spreader event more than millions of people very up close and personal in physical retail indoor spaces.
Absence of Vaccine in 2020 and well into 2021
The majority of readers of this column will not get a vaccination until next summer at the earliest. First there is the timeline to a safe vaccine, which scientists say will be second quarter 2021 at the earliest. Second, the politization of the CDC, the FDA, HHS has triggered a huge percentage of people that don’t trust the government about vaccines. Third, the anti-vaccine movement of recent years will only grow as this lack of trust in the federal government continues.
The math on the vaccine, even once approved, is overwhelming from a logistics point of view. As of now there have been some 130 million COVID-19 tests since March. That is far from enough. There are 330 million people in the U.S. The vaccine may in fact be a two-step one with weeks in between the two. What that means is that to vaccinate all Americans it will take 330-660 million vaccines to be administered. Of course, before that these will all need to be produced. I cannot do the math in any way where it isn’t until the end of 2021 at the earliest where there will be enough administered vaccines for the country to be vaccine safe.
What this ultimately means is that any opening up of the economy is based upon at least 90% of all Americans to wear masks for the next 12 months. Once this becomes clear, anyone who is citing individual freedom as a reason to not wear a mask will be ever more looked at as a health threat to all of us who wear masks. Since some 75% of Americans say that the wearing of a mask is essential for our collective health and our national economy to have a solid, sustained recovery, those who refuse to wear masks will increasingly be viewed as selfish threats to the collective well-being. Unfortunately, to date, the “mask war” in this country has already held us back for longer than necessary.
We win collectively, as we did during the Great Depression and during WWII, or we continue to die separately for another year. The dark winter ahead should show us that as Americans we must raise above politics and personal opinions and come together to defeat the virus. Or COVID-19 wins in the sense that it will linger for years.
May this dark winter ahead move us as a nation to decide that we will do what it takes to defeat the virus. Or the dark winter will become the dark spring and summer.
While the U.S. is clearly the plague nation of the world, the virus is on a profound and predictable second wave around the world. In Europe, countries are again imposing restrictions, curfews and lock downs. The number of new cases is rapidly increasing in India, Russia, Brazil, Iran, the Middle East and Eastern Europe. Only countries in Eastern and Southeast Asia have been successful in holding down new cases.
One cascading effect of this widespread explosion in new cases is that the first depression of the 21st Century will be exacerbated. Back in April I forecast that the US GDP and the global GDP would both be down by 10% in 2020 from 2019 if there was a second wave in the late fall. Well, I still think that is a valid forecast.
We do know that a national mask mandate or something close will not happen until after January 20,2021 in the U.S. With no plan, a president defeated, rapidly spiking new cases in 30+ states, the economic slowdown will now accelerate with ever more bankruptcies between now and the end of January. This of course will add to the darkness of winter, with ever more laid-off, furloughed or fired employees facing holidays and the new year with a loss of hope.
The future for all of us lies in coming together toward collective action, helping one another and to increase empathy to all. First to defeat the virus, then to resurrect the global economy and all the national economies that are falling fast Whether actually true or not, the saying that comes to mind is “the darkest hour is just before dawn”.
The 2020s is truly a decade of new beginnings as what was falls away will be replaced by the new. We have to get there. We have to come together to take the right road in the fork in the road where we are.
As Bucky Fuller put is so well: “ Utopia or Oblivion” Our choice….now and for the rest of this decade.