If you reduce the [COVID-19] infection rate too far, then most of the population does not become infected and that means that once you stop policies such as social distancing the virus can emerge once more and we all have to do this again. – Joshua Gans, March 2020 (emphasis added)
At the commencement of the year 1 CE (COVID Era), it seemed like everyone was screaming flatten the curve! Which basically demanded that everybody follow the COVID catechism (wear masks, wash hands, stay home, stay six feet away from all biology at all times) so that as few people as possible got infected by SARS-CoV-2. This would stop the hospitals from getting overwhelmed and putting the fortunes of health care investors at risk. (One could argue how it came to pass that We the People got saddled with a health care system that serves financial markets and not patients. But it’s way too late for that now.)
Fast forward to the middle of the year 2 CE. After trillions (conservative estimate) of dollars of economic damage, and billions of dollars expended on COVID epidemiology and vaccine development and deployment (for the benefit of those nations and populations willing to submit to the extortion of the vaccine makers), hospitals are getting overwhelmed with COVID cases. Again.
Plus ça change, plus c’est la mème chose.
How did this happen?
For one thing, it seems to have been forgotten, or overlooked, that, if one acts to suppress the number of disease cases at any one moment, and doesn’t have other disease-suppressing tools to hand, then the near-certain consequence is that you have to deal with the disease for a longer period of time. This was actually well understood by those who initially promoted the “flatten the curve” concept. But people were dying and (perhaps more importantly to The People That Mattered) hospitals were floundering, administratively and financially. So the future was left to take care of itself, while folk dealt desperately with the present.
For another, and Joshua Gans was far from the only person who knew this from the get-go, if one flattens the curve too much, then you’re likely to be committed to the COVID catechism in perpetuity. For the minute you let down your guard, back comes the bug, and you’re back where you were. Bankrupt.
Vaccines were supposed to fix this, so that people could get immunized against COVID without having to rush out and get sneezed on by people. And once they got shot, they could rush out and get sneezed on by people, and only have to worry about common colds and ew. Which seems to be not only acceptable, but required, given all the moaning and groaning about social distancing. (Yes, YFNA is an introvert, certified back when Lyndon Johnson was US President.) But people have to be willing to get vaccinated. As pointed out in an earlier post, it’s of no value to complain about the vaccination percentage of any state in these Untied States of America, because the vaccination percentage of no state in the USA is high enough to prevent a massive rise in the number of active COVID cases, in places where the COVID catechism has been abandoned – in other words, where masks and lockdowns are no longer required.
Let’s crunch some numbers to see how this works.
Here in Hawaiʻi nei (August 2021), just over 60% of its 1.4 million citizens have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to state officials, to whom YFNA will show aloha rather than pointing out that non-Hawaiʻi sources state a percentage closer to 55%. That means 40%, or 550,000 people, have not been vaccinated. Of those, 50,000 have gotten COVID, leaving half a million souls who are vulnerable to the disease. UPDATE: As of 20 November 2021, the State of Hawaiʻi claims 72.3% vaccinated, while the Mayo Clinic reports 60.5%. At the State’s figure, nearly 400,000 Hawaiians remain vulnerable to SARS-CoV-2.
Over the last few days, Hawaiʻi has been recording between 500 and 1,000 daily COVID cases. For jollies, let’s accept the 1,000 number and see where it takes us. Moreover, Hawaiʻi seems to have been increasing its percentage of vaccinated people by about 0.5% of the total population a week. That’s approximately 7,000 people a week, or, coincidentally, 1,000 a day. So, at present, 2,000 Hawaiians a day are acquiring immunity against COVID, either by getting a shot or by getting sick.
How long, at 2,000 souls a day, would it take to grant immunity to the 500,000 who are susceptible to COVID as this post is written (17 August, 2 CE)?
Ten months, approximately. Or, sometime in May or June of the year 3 CE (2022 Common Era). That’s a long time for Hawaiian hospitals to be in unacceptably dire (for anybody) crisis mode.
Say the vaccination rate was doubled (2,000 persons a day). That would reduce the time to total immunization to six or seven months, sometime in February, 3 CE.
Now, let’s keep the vaccination rate at 1,000 a day, but lower COVID new cases to where it was before the current spike, about 100 a day. (UPDATE: This has been the case in Hawaiʻi since mid-October 2021.) Under this scenario, the pool of susceptible people would be cleared after 16 months, right around Christmas, 3 CE. Double the vaccination rate, and full immunization would be achieved at nine months, or May, 3 CE.
That’s one hell of a long lockdown, Chapter 11 and Chapter 7 fans. Especially after the year+’s worth we’ve struggled through already, and thought, mistakenly, that we could get out from under. Oh, and right now the smart money’s on a figure around 90% of citizens, vaccinated or naturally infected, before there’s much of a chance of “herd immunity”. (UPDATE: 90% vaccination of all citizens over 12 years old wasn’t nearly enough to stop COVID resurgence in Ireland in November 2021, leading to new and repressive restrictions – though short, for now, of the total lockdown imposed on Austria.) So it’s probably just as well to reject false hope and go for the 100% figure.
Mind you, all this figuring assumes that COVID vaccines and infections are 100% effective at conferring immunity to SARS-CoV-2, and that that immunity lasts without decay through the end of 2022. On present evidence of initial vaccine inefficiency and decay of immunity over time, it’s probably best to add 10% to the time needed to clear the susceptible pool under each scenario above, boosters notwithstanding. Or, you could just leave those numbers alone, reasoning that the 10% needed to allow for vaccine gaps is offset by the 10% short of 100% vaccination or infection that is supposed to confer ‘herd immunity’.
Or, you can throw the whole mess of calculations out the window if a virus variant shows up (like, maybe, the lambda variant) that is better able to beat the available vaccines.
Also assumed is that all in the susceptible pool are eligible for, and willing to receive, vaccination. Which is incorrect, because (to name one), children under 12 will not be eligible for vaccination until at least one vaccine gets full FDA approval. That might happen in early 2022. (It actually happened in November 2021.) And (to name two), Freedom!!
Your Friendly Neighborhood Amoeba provides this report to you, dear reader, as a public service, free of charge. Just in case you were still clinging to the notion that there are any quick fixes available for the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Or any fixes at all that do not require universal vaccination at the earliest possible time.
As if that’s going to happen.
Thanks for doing the head work