Incredibly, Dr. Fauci might be the optimistic one. Other scientists are claiming masks might become a seasonal requirement to fight the flu while The Atlantic runs an interesting piece on the liberals who can’t quit lockdown. Apparently, normal just wasn’t good enough…
“I hope that next Mother’s Day, we’re going to see a dramatic difference than what we’re seeing right now,” the good Dr. Anthony Fauci told ABC news this Sunday before adding the caveat to and all caveats. “I believe that we will be about as close to back to normal as we can.” Yes, you read that right: As close to normal as we can, one full year from now. Is there anyone out there who still believes the experts will ever let this end?
Even if you take Dr. Fauci at face value, he provided a litany of conditions for a sort of return to normalcy by next year. “We’ve got to make sure that we get the overwhelming proportion of the population vaccinated. When that happens, the virus doesn’t really have any place to go. You’re not going to see a surge. You’re not going to see the kinds of numbers we see now.”
Two questions come to mind: What kind of numbers are we seeing now and what is the trend? Plus, how many people have been vaccinated so far?
First, the raw numbers. As of May 9, the seven day rolling average of coronavirus cases in the United States continued its steep decline to 41,057, down from a peak of 259,614 on January 8, almost six times as high as today. New cases on May 9 were 22,391, the lowest recorded since last fall. The 7-day average has dropped from 71,503 as recently as April 14, meaning the numbers keep plummeting. We have seen a decline of 84% since January, and then another 43% over the past 4 weeks. That is the “kinds of numbers we are seeing now.”
On the vaccine side of the equation, we’ve distributed 329,843,825 total doses, 259,716,989 of them have been used. Close to 50% of the population has received at least one dose, and about a third have been fully vaccinated. Moreover, a very high percentage of high risk groups, primarily seniors and individuals with comorbidities, have been fully vaccinated. The unvaccinated population is younger, healthier, and at very little risk of death or even severe illness from the disease. Note that the vaccination numbers are in addition to those who contracted coronavirus over the past year and have natural immunity. There are 32.7 million reported cases, but estimates are that somewhere at least three times that amount had the virus. This means that well over half the population is currently immune. That is the “kinds of numbers we are seeing now.”
The situation has turned so positive that even The New York Times is citing experts claiming we’re turning the corner. “We’re clearly turning the corner,” said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. The report that “epidemiologists are uncharacteristically optimistic,” citing Andrew Noymer from the University of California, Irvine. “We’re in a really good spell and we can act accordingly.” The Washington Post is also getting in on the act, quoting an epidemiologist who said, “Under the most optimistic scenario, deaths from covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, could drop into the low 100s per week in August and into the ‘tens’ per week in September.”
This epidemiologist was responding to the CDC’s own models which show coronavirus plummeting over the next few months. They provided four scenarios based on differences in vaccination rate and the loosening of restrictions on public gatherings. In all four scenarios, cases plummeted close to zero between March and September. That is the “kinds of numbers we are seeing now.”
Amazingly, Dr. Fauci also claimed the CDC is updating their guidance in real time, even claiming indoor mask restrictions might be eliminated soon. “I think so, and I think you’re going to probably be seeing that as we go along, and as more people get vaccinated.” “We do need to start being more liberal, as we get more people vaccinated,” he added. While this sounds promising, forgive me if I remain skeptical: The CDC was over six months behind on outdoor masking, literally recommending you wear a mask alone in the desert until last week.
Equally amazingly, some in the media appear to be waking up from their year long slumber. The often cited former commissioner of the FDA, Dr. Scott Gottlieb is pushing to end restrictions, telling CBS News, “Certainly outdoors, we shouldn’t be putting limits on gatherings anymore,” Gottlieb said. “The states where prevalence is low, vaccination rates are high, and we have good testing in place, we’re identifying infections, I think we could start lifting these restrictions indoors as well, on a broad basis.”
Perhaps most amazing of all is CNN’s Jake Tapper, who sharply questioned Joe Biden’s COVID-19 response director, Jeffrey Zients. “ Is it really necessary for a fully vaccinated person to wear a mask at a limited indoor gathering, if everyone there is vaccinated?” “So, why does President Biden, in a room full of vaccinated journalists, with everybody in that room vaccinated, why does he need to wear a mask?” Great questions, especially after President Joe Biden and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden were bizarrely photographed with former President Jimmy Carter and his wife inside their home last week without masks on, but then both the President and the First Lady promptly masked up as soon as they stepped outside. To say none of this makes much sense at this point, is one of the understatements of the year.
Or, perhaps more cynically, Biden continues to wear a mask because he’s preparing us for Phase 2 of social distancing, keeping these measures in place seasonally to stop the spread of the flu. Apparently, NBC News believes that the sudden, rather strange disappearance of the flu this winter is a cause for a concern, and a reason to mask up every year, forever. “More than a year after the pandemic started, Covid-19 is still ravaging parts of the world, but now scientists are warning that another virus could be a serious threat in the coming months: influenza. This season, the flu virtually disappeared, with less than 2,000 lab-confirmed cases in the United States to date, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In a typical flu season, the U.S. could see more than 200,000 lab-confirmed cases by this time of year, a tiny fraction of the true number of cases, estimated to range from 9 million to 45 million annually. Scientists and public health experts say this year, Covid-19 mitigation measures, like social distancing and masking, most likely stopped flu transmission.”
Of course, there’s no real evidence for any of these conclusions. How is a mask stopping the flu, but not coronavirus? Could it be that patients are getting diagnosed with coronavirus when they have the flu? Could it be coronavirus is dominant this year because it’s more contagious? They don’t say. NBC News does quote Dr. Jesse Goodman, a professor of medicine who consults with the FDA and the CDC. “If some of these practices continue, it could be that things aren’t bad next year. One question will be, how much will those habits persist?”
How much these habits persist is also the subject of an interesting piece in The Atlantic last week by Emma Green, “The Liberals Who Can’t Quit Lockdown.” Ms.Green begins, “Lurking among the jubilant Americans venturing back out to bars and planning their summer-wedding travel is a different group: liberals who aren’t quite ready to let go of pandemic restrictions…Some conservatives refused to wear masks or stay home, because of skepticism about the severity of the disease or a refusal to give up their freedoms. But this is a different story, about progressives who stressed the scientific evidence, and then veered away from it.”
Ms. Green cites a number of instances, from a refusal to take off masks even outside to Dr. Fauci’s still present fear of restaurants, supporting the notion that progressives are all-in on endless restrictions. One anecdote she recounts is particularly revealing. “After Emily Oster, an economist at Brown University, argued in The Atlantic in March that families should plan to take their kids on trips and see friends and relatives this summer, a reader sent an email to her supervisors at the university suggesting that Oster be promoted to a leadership role in the field of ‘genocide encouragement.’ ‘Far too many people are not dying in our current global pandemic, and far too many children are not yet infected,’ the reader wrote. ‘With the upcoming consequences of global warming about to be felt by a wholly unprepared worldwide community, I believe the time is right to get young scholars ready to follow in Dr. Oster’s footsteps and ensure the most comfortable place to be is white [and] upper-middle-class.’ (‘That email was something,’ Oster told me.)”
More chillingly, Ms. Green quotes a senior adviser to progressive Representative Ayanna Pressley, PR consultant, Alex Goldstein. “Among progressive political leaders around here, there’s a lot of talk around: We’re not going back to normal, because normal wasn’t good enough.” Normal wasn’t good enough. Let that sink in for a moment and you will understand why many like myself feel a return to normalcy will never happen unless we fight for it and make our voices heard.