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Charting the coronavirus pandemic over the next 12 months — and beyond

Andrew Joseph writes:

Think back through the pandemic. Think about the moments that stand out as beacons in the haze — signposts of how it would change all of our lives.

Not all of these moments were clear at the time. China’s decision to shut down cities of millions of people in January was staggering, but to most Americans, this new coronavirus remained an ocean away, not something that would demand our own version of a lockdown.

Other moments form pits in our stomachs when we look back. Perhaps, for you, it’s when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention touted it was developing its own test for SARS-CoV-2 instead of relying on international designs. Or when leaders in New York delayed containment plans as cases built. Or when President Trump embraced the unproven and ultimately fruitless hydroxychloroquine as a miracle drug.

Then there were moments when the new reality arrived with the subtlety of a sonic boom. Take March 11: Trump halted most travel from Europe. Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson announced they had Covid-19. The NBA suspended its season.

Now — with health authorities saying it may not be until at least the end of 2021 before there’s a degree of post-Covid normalcy in our lives — look forward. Imagine the next 15 months and what life will be like.

In this project, STAT describes 30 key moments, possible turning points that could steer the pandemic onto a different course or barometers for how the virus is reshaping our lives, from rituals like Halloween and the Super Bowl, to what school could look like, to just how long we might be incorporating precautions into our routines.

This road map is informed by insights from more than three dozen experts, including Anthony Fauci and Bill Gates, people on the frontlines at schools and hospitals, as well as STAT reporters. It largely focuses on the U.S.

Perhaps making forecasts during what’s habitually described as “unprecedented” is foolish. “I’m kind of done predicting — none of my predictions worked out for me,” Kelly Wroblewski of the Association of Public Health Laboratories said, with a resigned laugh, about when she thought the testing problems that have dogged us from the earliest days might get resolved. And indeed, some of the events will unfold in different ways and at other times than we’ve charted out.

Yet for all that’s caught us off guard about Covid-19, some factors — like how a virus spilled from animals and swept around the world — are straight out of pandemic playbooks. We can see the coming crossroads.

So many challenges still lie ahead. Flu season. An ongoing child care quandary. A tumultuous election and potential transition of power. Whoever wins, we’ll need them to shepherd a vaccine rollout — a logistical and public relations campaign without (here’s that word again) precedent.

“The virus is not through with us yet,” said family physician and epidemiologist Camara Phyllis Jones of Morehouse School of Medicine. “The virus has only one job. And that’s to replicate itself, and to go from person to person to person — and it doesn’t care which person.” [Continue reading…]

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