It’s been quite a few months since my last coronavirus update.

There was a previous post that was an initial first warning and forward looking view. Like those earlier editorial statements, I will be warning, or attempting to warn family and friends, who will listen, of what will come in the next 90-120 days. At the time of this writing, 5 family members have been either fully vaccinated, or have received their first dose. Which is a relief. but there are many more to go in our family, not to mention yours.

After looking at data and studying trends in South America, the Middle East, Africa, Indochina, Oceania, Russia, India, and the US, I’ve been able to draw some correlations and conclusions. These conclusions are not what you would wish to hear, and in some cases, some of you will refuse to listen, flatly deny, and will not believe what I’m about to say. In fact, I’ve been sitting on these conclusions for likely too long, hoping to see a positive trend that could render what I’m about to say below unnecessary.

Part of the reason you are seeing vaccination restrictions easing is a direct response to the same trends that I’ve been monitoring for the past eight weeks.  There are three very nasty SARS-COv2 strains, all of them are now among us in the US and most of the rest of the world and they are much worse than what drove our previous “waves.”  I use quotation marks there because there is hot debate about which wave we’re actually experiencing. Some will tell you that what is to come is a small fourth wave and that the last wave was actually the third wave. I believe it was only our second wave. This third wave, which is just starting as I write this, is very likely to create a very large number of cases and deaths.  Some of the variants are more anecdotally more resistant to the existing vaccinations, some seem to respond the same as previous strains. There is very little data available, especially from South America, to make predictions iron clad. This is why it is utterly and completely vital that If you have the opportunity to find a vaccination site that will accept you, take it. It does not matter the variety and there are nearly no medical reasons not to accept the first available vaccine that you can. We are literally in a race to stave off the damage of this coming third wave, if we can vaccinate enough people in time, we may have a chance. As it stands now, I don’t think that is statically, logistically, or sociologically possible. Many more people will become ill and will die.

This scatterplot shows the timeline of the past 13 months and the prevalent strains as they emerge

As we see the “older” variant case counts decreasing, we are seeing very disturbing and sharp increases in the newer and more virulent strains from South Africa, Europe, and South America. Which means, while the older European strains case counts drop and because the run rate of those variants was so high, it appears that in some places the disease is subsiding. It is not. As the more virulent strains are beginning to reach a mass that is critical enough to become the predominant strain, the case count is very rapidly rising again. Further, because of the economic impact, political impact, and the fatigue of protective restrictions, many states are now beginning the process of easing those protective measures. They are increasing the amount of people in public and private spaces, relaxing mandates, and this is contributing to the sense people have that, “this is finally starting to end.”  It is not.

In fact, it is the worst possible time to allow more people to gather in unrestricted, with reduced mandates for safety, and relaxed personal protection measures. Since the UK variant (B.1.1.7) and the South American variant (P.1) do impact children and is generally more infectious (up to 40-60% more so). The long shot bet that governmental health executives are making, due to the literally runaway house fire nature of the containment efforts and policies in the US, is that they now have no choice but to hope that the vaccines can reach enough people to stave off the deadliest phase of this pandemic we’ve see to date. This is largely because there is nothing else that they can possibly do. I believe that is not possible and there is no contingency plan available at this time.

I realize that some states are opening completely, the sunshine is coming, and we’ve moved our clocks forward as the days are getting longer. Soon, the grass will turn greener, trees will bud, and Brood X will emerge and raise earth to heaven in noise. It’s not been summer for nearly two years. You’ll feel like it’s over, you are already starting to feel like it’s behind us, perhaps. Your friends, neighbors, and family will feel and behave as if this is over and the worst is behind us. You’ll want to see those loved ones and friends that you’ve missed so much. You will think that those times of 5,000 individual daily deaths, 400,000 daily cases, and darkest days of this pandemic are behind us. You would be wrong. I feel that the worst of this is not behind us, rather it is directly ahead of us.

I use a metaphor of a beach. You’re on holiday, finally and you’ve got your feet buried into the warm sand, you’re watching the sun reflect from the water onto your face, you’re enjoying your friends and family openly at long last. And I walk up to you, wearing a dark overcoat, hat, and sunglasses and point out over the water and say “Hey, there is a huge hurricane coming, it’s out there about 500 miles. You better start to make your way home, lay in supplies, batten down and take cover.” But you’ll rightfully want to smash me right in the face. Well, I’m telling you there is a hurricane, it is coming, and it’s about 250 miles away now. You had better take cover if you have not had your vaccinations. If you have been vaccinated, now is not the time to risk the 5-25 percent vulnerability you still have to the three most virulent and dangerous versions of this disease we’ve seen to date.

I’m not in the prediction business, nor the infectious disease business, I’m not even in the data analytics business. The prediction calculator (note that I avoid the word “algorithm”) is shuttered and the code base is now carried by much smarter people than myself. In May of last year, I predicted 800,000 to 1.6 million people dead by the end of 2022, we’re at 550,000 deaths now. I got a lot wrong in my predictions last year, without a doubt. But, in general I was correct in my prediction of what the disease would behave like among us.

Based on what we know about SARS-CoV-2, I now am of the belief that this disease will return, seasonally each year and we will have a permanent vaccine regimen that we will have to adhere to indefinitely. I do not think that vaccine, or natural herd immunity is possible with this disease. Instead we will see seasonal waves indefinitely and permanently. In other words, this will never end. Which may be the most important thing to take from all of this aside from the message to stop at nothing until you have accomplished a vaccine.

So, with increased risk from the variations such as the South American (P.1) variant becoming a reality, there’s no other alternatives to vaccination. So, accomplish any vaccine for yourself and your loved ones at any cost. Stop at nothing until you and your loved ones are vaccinated. There is no other action beyond staying away from human beings, who spread this disease through the very air, until you can become vaccinated.  The current generations of available vaccines will protect you as will the boosters that will come. There will be more effective and available vaccines to come very shortly. Even though disparity and inequity in distribution is a very real problem both in this country and the rest of the world. In future, I will report what I find about that.

Like last time, I’d rather be wrong and have said something publicly, than be right having said nothing.

Also, here are some of my sources sources for further reading:

Vaccine Data Explorer