The Battle for a Return to Normal Has Just Begun
Our Endemic Covid World and why the Ends of Epidemics Are by Nature Political
I can't help but notice that now, nearly two years since the beginning of the pandemic, and a year into the vaccine rollout with widespread availability, it appears there may be even more concern over Covid than ever. We’ve seen this anxiety driven by the recent media hysteria over the Omicron Variant, as well as the growing realization that Covid is seasonal and just as cases rose in the south this summer; they are rising again in northern states now.
Unfortunately, those in charge of the pandemic narrative haven’t been preparing the public for the eventually end game for Covid, where the virus is Endemic, and just another risk, albeit small, that we encounter in life just like other respiratory pathogens. Instead the media is just continuing the narrative. Here’s the latest twist from the Atlantic:
While it’s true the latest variant appears to be evading immunity to a greater degree than past variants, we’ve known for months that the vaccines don’t prevent infection. Conversely, the vaccines continue to offer protection against severe outcomes, and new variants haven’t, and are unlickely in the future, to change that. This insistence on pushing for a zero risk environment, on Zero Covid, isn’t going to work.
The public, most of which have had two, or even three, doses of mRNA may end up getting a dose of the “South African” vaccine, at which point their natural immunity will mean they won't have to personally worry about catching Covid for quite awhile. Yet this doesn’t seem to be enough for most people, and certainly not enough for those in change. Instead we are being told to push for full suppression of the virus, a goal which appears completely unattainable, and leaves us wanting for a better end goal for a return to normalcy.
This brings me to sharing a journal article, published earlier in the year, titled: How Epidemics End. The article explains what the transition may look like to a world with endemic Covid, which, as I first wrote about in February, is Covid's End Game. I’d encourage everyone to follow the link and read the entire article:
The conclusion very aptly summarizes the situation we currently find ourselves in:
“Epidemics end once the diseases become accepted into people's daily lives and routines, becoming endemic—domesticated—and accepted. Endemic diseases typically lack an overarching narrative because they do not seem to require explanation. More often, they appear as integrated parts of the natural order of things. By contrast, epidemics—like the recurring narratives they produce—throw a society's confusion, fears, and anxieties into high relief. But as a result, epidemics and their narratives can also act to conceal the thickets of disease in which we live, including those lowly and constant problems of heart conditions, acute diarrhoea, and respiratory infections.”
We don't stress over where we caught the flu, or feel moral impurity that we did. We didn't feel pressure to be tested so we can name the particular virus or variant giving us the sniffles. But for many these narratives are still attached to Covid. We are still bombarded daily with news on case counts, death totals, new variants, and the inevitable event, business, and school closures that result from positive tests. Until these narratives are removed, normalcy cannot return. Basically, this all ends when we say it ends…
The article describes that during historic plagues of the past, the ending of pandemics often receive much less focus than the beginning:
“[t]he last part, the end of an epidemic, is perhaps always ever an asymptote, never disappearing but rather fading to the point where its signal is lost in the noise of a new normal, and even allowed, in some imaginable future, to be forgotten.”
If the beginning of a pandemic is akin to the setting of a giant bonfire, then the ending is but the slowly fading afterglow of cooling embers, and it’s up to all us to decide when it has cooled to the point that it is again safe to walk on the coals…
"Given that an epidemic is defined as an increase in incidence beyond usual rates, the end, too, can be clinically defined as the “reduction of disease incidence, prevalence, morbidity or mortality to a locally acceptable level” to achieve what is widely described as “disease control.” Yet as ambiguous terminology such as “acceptable” and “control” demonstrates, this status is necessarily achieved through a process of negotiation between different, if not competing, interests."
"What is deemed a “locally acceptable level” is thus necessarily a process of social and political debate as much as it is about disease.”
After reading this article, I think it makes perfect sense that all these battles over Covid policy have become so political. It's an ongoing battle between different people with different beliefs and different circumstances, some ready to let the pandemic go and some not. Covid is not over across the US, but is not due to biomedical reality, but due to policy.
Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, of The Great Barrington Declaration, echoed these thoughts in a recent interview:
Were it not for federal policy Covid would effectively be over in US states like Florida, and for all intents and purposes Covid is already over in Sweden. This ongoing political battle is all the more important since it's not simply a battle over when the pandemic ends, but what the "new normal" looks like when it does.
We can choose our old way of life, as promoted by Florida’s DeSantis and the Scandinavian nations, or we can choose the "Green Pass", mandates, and ongoing restrictions of the Germanies, Israels, and Australias of the world. What we choose won't depend on the virus, but on our own political will. I hope we choose wisely.
But our Public Health Better and their media stenographers seem to have already made up their minds, and they seem hell bent on maintaining the pandemic narrative until cases are all put non-existent. Here’s Fauci, just last month, still claiming we can’t get back to normal until cases nationwide are below 10,000 per day:
The absurdity of this threshold is striking! Compare it to Flu: Every year (until Covid came along…) between about 30 million and 70 million Americans have a Flu infection. Let’s stick with the lower bond of 30 million and imagine that we tested for Flu infections as extensively as we test for Covid. It’s estimated that currently there are between 2 or 3 Covid infections for every documented case. So this would mean around 12 million Flu “cases” if we tested for it the way we test for Covid. Most of these “cases” will occur during the 4 months of the year that make up the peak of Flu season, which means we would average around 3 million “cases” a month and 100,000 cases per day! 10 times Fauci’s “return to normalcy number”!!
Unless you want to see restrictions return every winter, Fauci’s threshold has to be abandoned!
This focus on incessantly testing for what is now an endemic virus will never return us to normal. An amazing twitter thread on the uselessness of mass Covid testing and the realities of endemic Covid really drives this point home. It was written in response to a recent call to hold a “National Testing Day” before Christmas:
The response is decimating, and while I encourage you to read the entire, thread here are some of the highlights:
ProfEmilyOster @ProfEmilyOsterProposal: December 23 is National Testing Day. We aim to have everyone do a rapid test. Push Biden team to get tests out (mail, schools, etc) to everyone. Have pop up testing in the mall. Not perfect!. But we're missing a plan, and this is one (1/2)
The point is clear, our current focus on testing, and on “slowing the spread” in a world where the virus is endemic and where even vaccines can’t stop it, makes no sense and is the number one thing holding us back from normal.
Instead, I’d propose something more like this:
More specifically, and in direct response to Biden's disastrous 6 prong “War on Covid” Plan, here's a 6 point plan on adapting to endemic Covid:
1. Forget About Slowing the Spread. This is the key factor. As Raffi’s thread demonstrates, the virus will ebb and flow on it's own and there is no point in trying to prevent that from happening. All our efforts should focus on treating disease, not preventing transmission. We don't have much control over spread anyway. Here's a map from the CDC showing current community transmission. What sticks out? The state supposedly doing the least to "slow the spread" is somehow slowing it the best? Weird…
2. End All Mass Testing. Covid tests serve one useful purpose in an endemic Covid world. That is for clinical diagnosis of disease for use in determining treatment. If you feel like you have a severe case of Covid, go see your doctor, they will test you, and treat you accordingly if you come back positive. Every other use case for testing is a net detriment to society. Ending mass testing also ends the constant focus on case counts and the continual disruptions to life that follow asymptomatic positive tests.
3. Ditch the Masks. Masks do not provide personal protection against respiratory viruses, so in an endemic world they don't serve a purpose. Health officials should once again be honest about this fact. They are the most visible reminder of the pandemic, and are a constant disruptor to normal daily life. Encourage everyone to toss out their masks for good and end all remaining masks mandates for everyone.
4. End All Vaccine Mandates. We are no longer worried about spread, which vaccines didn't help with much anyway, so vax mandates serve no purpose. They're actually counterproductive as they focus efforts on vaccinating the relatively healthy workforce instead of encouraging complete vax and booster uptake among the vulnerable elderly. Drop the mandates, provide easy access, and focus on informing the public on the actual age striated benefits and risks of vaccination.
5. Focus on Treatments. Even if everyone were vaccinated, Covid will still spread and many will still fall ill. Luckily there are many other tools to treat Covid, from Monoclonal Antibodies, to new pharmaceuticals just hitting the market, to simple vitamin supplementation, to the dreaded horse dewormer that shall not be named... We need greater focus on determining which of these drugs are most promising and we need to develop better standard practices for treating Covid since it's something doctors will likely be dealing with for years to come.
6. Completely and Fully Open the Schools. Past April of 2020 there was never a reason to have anything less than completely normal school. It's never too late to correct this colossal wrong, by making sure that every school is open and operating completely normally without testing, isolation, masks, or distancing and especially no vaccine requirements. None of those measures led to better Covid outcomes, and to whatever extent they blunted community spread, this fact is irrelevant in an endemic Covid world.
As you can see it's a pretty simple list, and yet our Public Healths Betters appear completely ill equipped for the job. Instead their messaging is the complete opposite:
And sadly this inability to cope with our endemic Covid reality extends to even some of the sainer pandemic merchants. Here's Pfizer board member and pandemic pundit, Scott Gottlieb, is hawking these days:
Scott Gott is now pushing for a nationwide "culture change" when it comes to how we handle endemic respiratory viruses. This "culture change" includes:
Seasonal masking requirements.
A massive at-home testing regime.
Permanent limits on indoor gatherings.
Stricter vaccine mandates.
As per our usual arrangement Scott Gott is dead wrong. His "culture change" might be great for his pocket book, but it's not the way I intend to live.
The answer is simple: NO!
End the testing, Take off the masks, Open the schools, Lay down your arms. The War on Covid is Over! The virus is endemic, let’s return to normal now!
Anyway 0 and 2...