My View: The COVID Reality Will Sink In – We Didn’t Take This Seriously Enough

Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

By David M. Greenwald

It has been a year since the first COVID cases were reported in the US, we still have nearly two months before we mark the year anniversary of shutdowns, we are watching as the economy continues to struggle, cases have surged and peaked for now, and the vaccine roll out has been slower than hoped.

We have passed 400,000 deaths and headed toward half a million sometime in February.  Current projections are that 75 percent of the people won’t be vaccinated until late September—and that might be optimistic, given vaccine resistance in the population.

When we look back on this, the question will remain: how many lives would have been saved had we simply taken this more seriously?  Segments of the population saw this as relatively low risk for them.  We saw resistance to things like masks—choosing to view it as a freedom issue and an issue of fear rather than reasonable health precautions.

People have refused to stop meeting in large groups, and have fought to reopen schools and churches.

One thing people never seemed to take into consideration—viruses can change and mutate very rapidly.  And so a virus that was a relatively low threat to populations could become a larger threat.

In short, by prolonging this pandemic, by failing to adhere to best practices, we have allowed the virus to take hold, and perhaps pose an even greater threat even as we appear to have the means to finally thwart the virus.

That is precisely what has happened. The Associated Press reported yesterday that there is evidence that the new COVID variant “carries a higher risk of death than the original strain.”

British government’s chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance said at a news conference on Friday that while the data remains somewhat uncertain, “there is evidence that there is an increased risk for those who have the new variant.”

Is it a big shift?  No.  But it is there.

The example he gave was for a man in his 60s.  With the original version of the virus, the projected risk for death was 10 in 1000, or about 1 percent.  With the new variant, it is 13 or 14 in 1000, or 1.3 or 1.4 percent.

That’s a 30 to 40 percent higher risk for death, but Vallance stressed that “the evidence is not yet strong” and more research is needed.

Not only is the variant more deadly, but it is much more transmissible—between 30 to and 70 percent.

Maria Van Kerkhove, the World Health Organization’s technical lead on COVID-19, said they are looking at it, they have not found so far an increase in severity, but warned that more transmission alone could lead to more deaths since it could further “overburden” a health care system.

The evidence for the new variant being more deadly is in a paper prepared by a group of scientists that advises the government on new respiratory viruses, based on several studies, the AP reported.

Paul Hunter, Professor in Medicine at the University of East Anglia, said “the conclusion about this probable increased lethality comes from analyses made by several different groups, though working with essentially the same data.

“There is quite a bit of difference in the estimated increased risk of death between the different analyses, though most but not all show increased risk of death,” he said.

The combination of factors here, while not necessarily alarming, signal that this thing could get worse rather than better unless we take steps to arrest the pandemic as we attempt to get more vaccine to the population.  It is also a reminder that we should not be playing with fire—calculations for death rates and transmission are not set in stone and can get worse.

President Biden in his first few days in office has put forth several changes, including a face mask and social distancing mandate in federal buildings.

He announced he is bringing back an Obama-era position called the “Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense,” which was organized with additional staff within the National Security Council after the 2014 Ebola epidemic.

He implemented a “response coordinator” who will report to the president on vaccines, testing and personal protective equipment production, supply, and distribution.

Jeff Zients, who had been the director of the National Economic Council under Obama, will oversee the COVID presidential transition team as the response coordinator.

Finally, Biden is looking to rejoin the World Heatlh Organization and reestablish the US as the leader of WHO.

On Thursday, he pledged a “full-scale wartime effort” to combat the coronavirus pandemic.  He said, “History is going to measure whether we are up to the task,” with Vice President Kamala Harris and Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, his chief Covid-19 medical adviser, by his side.

He rolled out a full 200-page document on Thursday calling for a “National Strategy for the Covid-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness,” wherein the new administration outlines the kind of centralized federal response that many have been demanding.

He also criticized his predecessor, saying, “For the past year we couldn’t rely on the federal government to act with the urgency and focus and coordination that we needed, and we have seen the tragic cost of that failure.”

Despite the strongly worded plan, critics say that the plan is in some respect “overly optimistic” but at other times “not ambitious enough.”

For example, the 100 million vaccines in 100 days is aiming rather low, that’s one million a day, when some have pointed out we are almost there as it is now and could probably more reasonably and ambitiously shoot for 1.5 million a day.

At this rate, we are looking at late summer for reaching a three-quarters threshold and the end of the year before we might end the pandemic.

Could we do more?  Perhaps.  But it also illustrates just how far behind the eight ball we put ourselves.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

Vanguard Webinar: COVID, UC Davis & Educational Challenges During a Pandemic – Friday January 29 at Noon


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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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43 Comments

    1. Tia Will

      “I did”.

      I can vouch for that. Of all the laypeople I know, Alan Miller probably took this the most seriously. He and others who post here had me take a closer look at the merits of mandatory, not voluntary masking.

      1. Bill Marshall

        How about mandatory vaccination?  Or, is that ‘a bridge too far’?

        As far as I’m concerned, would be able to go with, “no masking, no distancing = no health care if you contract the virus”… ‘insured’ or not.  Oh, and mandatory isolation, in addition to no health care…

        1. Chris Griffith

          I thought I’d share with you that I’m sitting in a restaurant with a few of my friends social distancing about 12 in apart here in Parker Arizona and their comments about this post  they shake their head and they feel sorry for you guys there’s more to life than cowering in a corner with a mask on and I think the four of us kind of agree if we’re going to die from a virus sure as hell’s not going to be the covid virus it’ll be probably some venereal disease.

           

           

          1. Don Shor

            Chris G:

            I thought I’d share with you that I’m sitting in a restaurant with a few of my friends social distancing about 12 in apart here in Parker Arizona and their comments about this post they shake their head and they feel sorry for you guys there’s more to life than cowering in a corner with a mask on and I think the four of us kind of agree if we’re going to die from a virus sure as hell’s not going to be the covid virus it’ll be probably some venereal disease.

            Here is the state of California travel advisory:

            1. Except in connection with essential travel, Californians should avoid non-essential travel to any part of California more than 120 miles from one’s place of residence, or to other states or countries. Avoiding travel reduces the risk of virus transmission, including by reducing the risk that new sources of infection and, potentially, new virus strains will be introduced to California.

            Quarantine Post-Travel
            3. All persons arriving in or returning to California from other states or countries, should self-quarantine for 10 days [ii] after arrival, except as necessary to meet urgent critical healthcare staffing needs or to otherwise engage in emergency response. Additionally, this recommendation does not apply to individuals who routinely cross state or country borders for essential travel [iii].

            “Non-essential travel” includes travel that is considered tourism or recreational in nature.
            ii The quarantine period was updated consistent with emerging science and the CDC’s latest recommendations.
            iii “Essential travel” is travel associated with the operation, maintenance, or usage of critical infrastructure or otherwise required or expressly authorized by law (including other applicable state and local public health directives), including work and study, critical infrastructure support, economic services and supply chains, health, immediate medical care, and safety and security.
            https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/COVID-19/Travel-Advisory.aspx

            When you return, please self-quarantine.
            Traveling and failing to maintain social distancing at this time increases the risk of transmission of COVID-19 to anyone you come in contact with. You may be asymptomatic but carrying the virus. That means you are putting your family and friends, and retail store clerks, and anyone else you physically interact with, at risk of infection. There are new strains spreading and we are nowhere near having enough people vaccinated to consider it safe for you to socialize, shop, or go to work when you return.
            Failure to practice precautions increases the likely spread of the virus. That means that stores will continue to be closed, business owners and employees won’t have incomes, and more people will get sick, experience long-term health issues, and some will die.
            I suggest you learn about and follow the CDC guidelines and the state advisories regarding travel, and the local health officer’s order for Yolo County. Reckless behavior affects everyone.

        2. Bill Marshall

          Cool, Chris… you and friends have chosen risk… choice is good…  the VD aspect is fascinating… if any, all, become ill, please refrain from using medical care, including insurance, so you don’t drive up ‘costs’ to the rest of us… thanks… be well…

        3. Alan Miller

          I thought I’d share with you that I’m sitting in a restaurant with a few of my friends social distancing about 12 in apart

          How are the eggs?  I appreciate the 12 feet.  That’s what I strive for when hanging out outside with people without masks.

          here in Parker Arizona

          The same Arizona that was recently announced to have the highest coronavirus rate in the world?  Sounds like a great choice for a pandemic vacation!

          https://www.abc15.com/news/coronavirus/arizona-has-highest-rate-of-covid-19-in-the-world-latest-data-shows

          and their comments about this post  they shake their head and they feel sorry for you guys

          I appreciate the deep sympathy and caring shown by you friends

          there’s more to life than cowering in a corner with a mask on

          Better to cower in a corner without a mask on

          and I think the four of us kind of agree if we’re going to die from a virus sure as hell’s not going to be the covid virus it’ll be probably some venereal disease.

          Have fun on you continuing quest for diseased sexual partners in Arizona!

        4. Alan Miller

          Cool, Chris… you and friends have chosen risk… choice is good…

          Is it?  Were it any personal choice, I’m very libertarian, I’d agree.  But your choice is a societal choice.  As in, one’s carelessness can lead to a chain of infections and possible death of others down the line.  So this is a war, a war of humanity vs. a virus.  And half the humanity in the US is being “Arizona Stupid”.  Again, look at the world-O-meter for Australia to show that this virus can be contained in a democracy – if your population isn’t arrogantstupid.

          Having said that, there is no actual evidence presented that CG is doing anything risky he’s 12-feet apart — OH WAIT, I retract that –I see he didn’t say ‘outside’ a restaurant, he said “in” a restaurant “in” Arizona – so yeah, risky for him and anyone he comes in contact with.

          the VD aspect is fascinating…

          I prefer ‘cringe-worthy’

        5. Hiram Jackson

          Chris Griffith: “they shake their head and they feel sorry for you guys there’s more to life than cowering in a corner with a mask on and I think the four of us kind of agree if we’re going to die from a virus sure as hell’s not going to be the covid virus it’ll be probably some venereal disease.”

          I applaud that you take responsibility for whatever consequences you yourselves might have in getting the disease.  But what are your thoughts on the possibility and responsibility of your asymptomatically spreading it to someone else who might die from it?  Or suffer long term health effects if they survive?

        6. Alan Miller

          you’ve accused me of not recognizing ‘dripping satire’?

          Perhaps not the best phrase choice given the subject matter – or .  .  . perhaps . . . not so accidental ?

        7. Richard_McCann

          Chris G

          Just keep on going ahead and setting back the U.S. economy because we can’t reopen everywhere with yahoos believing that they can play around and ignore how what they do afflicts everyone else. Somehow belittling the deaths of 400,000+ people so that you can pretend you might die from VD isn’t a particularly persuasive argument…

        8. Alan Miller

          1. Except in connection with essential travel, Californians should avoid non-essential travel to any part of California more than 120 miles from one’s place of residence, or to other states or countries.

          I have seven friends who are traveling internationally throughout this pandemic.  They think nothing of hopping on a plane.  One has round-tripped from Europe three times.  Three of these friends traveled in the last couple of weeks.

          I have a hard time wrapping my head around all this.  I see me and my friends and neighbors in Davis and most of us have barely left our houses in the last 10 months – and maybe another 6-12 months more.  Meanwhile, I have friends who just see this all differently and they are having the time of their lives as world travelers on empty planes and dirt-cheap prices.

          I still talk with all of them, but it’s difficult to reconcile.  I can’t even say the way the various people look at this even comes from the same place.   I know several people who’s friendships have been severed by the difference in opinion in ways their friendships were never tested before.

          I wonder what all this looks like from on high.  We’re told to obey all these local laws and travel restrictions for even going around town, or pray tell the next town.  But no one questions if someone wants to fly to Europe or Mexico or South America just for the fun of it.  Is that all just to the government doesn’t have to pay quite so much to keep the airlines alive?  Naaaaaaa . . .

    2. Richard_McCann

      Yeah, what do you mean by “we”? And trying to claim it was “collectively” deflects from who the true culprits were. There was no “we”–it has been largely a specific, identifiable group of actors who have been enabled and abetted by a larger group who want to deny the many inconvenient truths that they face.

    1. Bill Marshall

      People still can’t think straight about Covid… prioritizing health care workers, first responders first makes sense… transmissivity… frequent contact with many folk which are @ risk for death/morbidity is they ‘catch’ it… however, prioritizing those over 65 (unless they’re in an environment like a nursing home), who are less likely to be ‘out and about’ does not… yes they are more at risk if they get the virus, but the issue right now is slowing, stopping the transmission!

      That’s what masks, distancing is supposed to accomplish… decrease transmission.  Prioritizing ‘seniors’ doesn’t seem to be the highest priority… I’d willingly give up my “place in line” to someone who has to be ‘out and about’… as long as they have also been practicing, and continue to practice use of masks, distancing.

      It is very ironic that someone who thanks a man for the vaccine… a man who openly pooh-poohed masks and distancing, and held many ‘rallies’ where neither masks nor distancing was respected… stopping/slowing the transmission would have been hugely more important than the vaccine… to individuals, and society…

      But at least KO got his vaccine towards the top of the list… although he expressed frustration in how long it took him to get his relatively early appointment… wonder if he’ll still put up with the ‘inconvenience’ of masks, distancing, and minimizing travel.

      Another myth… ‘shutting stuff down destroys the economy’… for individuals in some sectors, true… but if one has investments, one has done quite well in the last year, particularly the most recent quarter… but ‘shutting stuff down’ has probably gone a long ways towards reducing transmission, hence, risk…

      1. Keith Olsen

        I thank Trump for fast tracking the vaccine with Operation Warp Speed.   Without Trump’s mandate to get the vaccine out a soon as possible I doubt we would be getting shots this early.  In what world where the vast majority of the people dying from COVID are people 55 and over would we not want to vaccinate them towards the front of the line?

        BM, if you want to give up your spot in the line go for it.  It’s your prerogative.

        Otherwise, worry about yourself, the rest of us can take care of ourselves.

        1. Bill Marshall

          the rest of us can take care of ourselves.

          Yeah… you got the vaccine, early, so you can stop wearing your mask (if you ever started), stop distancing (if you ever started), and going to large Retrumplikan rallies… and lionizing a President who denied masks, distancing, avoiding crowds were necessary or appropriate… enjoy.  You might want to consider whether you’ll get your second dose… turns out Trump lied about the stockpile of vaccine… quelle suprise!

          Just keep on believing that Trump is the savior (and Made America Healthy Again! [MAHA]) He will be the one credited with saving tha American (citizen) public from the pandemic… just his ‘orders’… yeah, right… convince the 400+ k dead how effective he was… good luck with that…

        2. Keith Olsen

          Yeah… you got the vaccine, early, so you can stop wearing your mask (if you ever started), stop distancing (if you ever started), and going to large Retrumplikan rallies…

          I’ve been wearing a mask almost since the start and also distancing but I have never been to a Trump rally.  I would love to go to one, maybe Davis can host him at UCD?

          You might want to consider whether you’ll get your second dose…

          You’re so uninformed, my wife and I already have an appointment for our second doses on 2/13.  Very smooth and well organized operation by Kaiser.

          Don’t be such a sourpuss.

        3. Bill Marshall

          Oh, KO, I have no doubt, your job # 1 is taking care of yourself… everyone else are responsible for their selves, as long as it is at no cost or inconvenience to you… good job!

          And, if you truly believe that Trump single-handedly got the vaccine to you as soon as it did, say “hi” to the Easter Bunny for me…

          ‘Operation Warp Speed’ began @ the very end of April… long after anyone with any brains knew, “Houston, we have a problem…”… Apollo 13 is perhaps an adequate metaphor…  things went horribly wrong, and it wasn’t the President who saved the day where the astronauts survived… it was the folk with ‘boots on the ground’, Mission Control and the Apollo 13 crew… analogously, the drug companies, guaranteed recovery of costs, and probably profits, by Congress, and the folk administering the vaccine were the ‘heroes’… not the Prez… except for those who have the DT’s…

          source:  Operation Warp Speed – Wikipedia

           

        4. Richard_McCann

          And you think that another President wouldn’t have fast tracked the vaccine? That’s taking credit for the obvious. It’s the one sorta success that he had. Of course, he then screwed up the preparation for the distribution by failing to provide federal coordination. The vaccine should have been in a million arms in the first couple of days in December==they’ve had at least 6 months to plan this.

          1. Don Shor

            Also worth noting that there was zero coordination between the outgoing and incoming administrations due to Trump’s refusal to concede that he lost and to direct his administration to work with the Biden team for the last 2+ months. As far as anyone can tell, Donald Trump simply stopped working on anything after Nov 6 other than his quixotic and delusional campaign to overturn the electoral college results. This sets back the rollout of the vaccine and very likely cost even more deaths than the tens of thousands his failed COVID policies were already responsible for.

  1. Chris Griffith

    there’s a quote from The Babylon bee that kind of sums up what other parts of the country think about California and I think it’s true by the way 😁
    California has a ton of COVID problems, but they have a ton of other nasty issues as well,” said Governor Abbott in a press conference. “Lord knows what kind of filthy debauchery those communists engage in on a daily basis. They could bring back any number of icky diseases! Worse, they might bring their socialist voting habits! We can’t allow that.”
    Anyone from California who wishes to live in Texas will be required to wear a mask in seclusion for three whole decades while eating smoked brisket and studying Texas history. No voting, social gathering, talking, or any freaky California stuff they’re used to will be allowed until officials are ensured that the last remaining traces of California have been removed from their psyche.

      1. Alan Miller

        CG,

        Never been there, though I plan to someday.   Plugged into Google and from your description in about 45 seconds I guessed the Crossroads.  That’s the place I would hit “When in Parker”.

        How were the eggs?

        –Alan

    1. Richard_McCann

      Since when is caution a crime? And how do you know that Biden wouldn’t have started the vaccine even earlier at the front end?  And finally, the vaccine is not the “silver” bullet as we’ve seen. The death toll has been at least double what it needed to be based on experiences in other countries; the U.S. is up there with the “sh—ole” nations.

      The crowing reminds of the team in the Super Bowl that loses by four touchdowns but points out that they scored two touchdowns at the end.

      1. David Greenwald

        It reminds me of when another administration declared mission accomplished and then proceeded to lose more people after than before the declaration.

  2. Chris Griffith

    Mr Richard😊

    It sounds like you need to go outside and rip off that dust mask and take a few deep breaths.You can’t be overwhelmed by the what-ifs.

     

     

      1. Alan Miller

        He doesn’t.

        It’s all mathematics.  Yes, you have 1000 interactions.  Yes, you didn’t get the virus in your previous interactions and none of your friends did.  Because you are thinking simply, this ‘proves’ there is no danger.

        More complex thinking recognizes that thousands of people are thinking exactly the same way, but several of these people actually were asymptomatic and did spread the virus to others while they were out with friends, not being overwhelmed by what-ifs.  Personal experience shows each has not contributed to the pandemic, been sick, or harmed others.  But the collective attitude of US persons has created the spread.

        So many American individuals cannot see their part in killing others with a collective attitude, even if they never actually spread the disease. Why?

        Australia has proven the opposite is possible.  They are a better people as a collective.  Why?

  3. Keith Olsen

    I see by some of the responses on here some people just can’t stand to give credit where credit is do.  Trump pushed hard to get the COVID vaccine developed and it was the fastest ever on record by far.  I know it hurts some of you deeply to give Trump credit but the facts speak for themselves.

    President Trump said in May that a COVID-19 vaccine could be ready as early as January 2021, and though experts warned that his timeline was incredibly optimistic, people started receiving the vaccine a month earlier than that. TheFDA granted emergency authorization to the Pfizer vaccine on Dec. 11 and did so a week later for the Moderna vaccine, leading some to believe the world was that much closer to ending the pandemic. But prior to the coronavirus, what was the fastest a vaccine has ever been made?
    Previously, the mumps vaccine was the quickest to have ever been developed, according toNational Geographic. And that took four years, from collecting viral samples to licensing the drug in 1967. For what it’s worth, it was originally estimated that it might take 12-18 months to create a coronavirus vaccine, though it was closer to about nine months.
    Typically, vaccines take as long as 10-15 years to develop

    https://coronavirus.nautil.us/until-now-whats-the-quickest-a-vaccine-has-ever-been-developed/

    1. David Greenwald

      I find your comment ironic, since you are willing to give generous credit, but fail to hold him accountable for the fact that nearly 200,000 people have died since the vaccine announcement was made and his plan to distribute the vaccine and the plan to mitigate the pandemic and loss of life were non-existent. Basically he spent three months putting forward false conspiracies trying to hold onto power rather than spending that time trying to mitigate the loss of life. And you say nothing about it? You want him to get credit for the vaccine but not the blame for the death toll, much of which in my view as avoidable.

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