Covid, retired – The New York Times
The Covid-19 is on the decline again.
The reasons remain somewhat unclear and there is no guarantee that the decline in the number of cases will continue. But the turnaround is now big enough – and lasts long enough – to deserve attention.
The number of new daily cases in the United States has fallen 35% since September 1.
Globally, cases have also fallen by more than 30% since the end of August. “It’s as beautiful as the world has been watching for many months”, Dr Eric Topol of Scripps Research wrote Last week.
These declines are consistent with a pattern that regular readers of this newsletter will recognize: the mysterious two-month cycle of Covid. Since the Covid virus began to spread in late 2019, cases have often increased for around two months – sometimes because of a variant, like Delta – and then decreased for around two months.
Epidemiologists do not understand why. Many popular explanations, such as seasonality or the ebb and flow of social distancing, are clearly insufficient, if not false. The two-month cycle occurred during different seasons of the year and occurred even when human behavior was not obviously changing.
The most plausible explanations involve a combination of viral biology and social media. Perhaps each variant of the virus is particularly susceptible to infecting some people but not others – and once many of the most vulnerable have been exposed, the virus recedes. And maybe a variant takes about two months to circulate in a medium-sized community.
Human behavior plays a role, people often become more cautious once the number of cases starts to increase. But social distancing is not as important as the public debate about the virus often imagines. “We have attributed too much human authority to the virus,” Michael Osterholm, an infectious disease expert at the University of Minnesota, told me.
The recent declines, for example, came even as millions of American children once again crowded into school buildings.
Whatever the reasons, the two-month cycle continues to occur. It is visible in the overall numbers, as you can see in the table below. Cases increased from late February to late April, then declined through late June, increased again through late August, and have been declining since.
The pattern has also been evident in countries including India, Indonesia, Thailand, Britain, France and Spain. In each of them, the Delta variant resulted in an increase in cases lasting from one and a half to two and a half months.
In the United States, the delta thrust began in several southern states in June and began to recede in those states in August. In much of the rest of the United States, it started in July and cases have started to decline in recent weeks. Even pediatric cases are on the decline, despite the lack of vaccination clearance for children under 12, as Jennifer Nuzzo of Johns Hopkins University told the Washington Post. (You can see the overall trends for each state here.)
The most encouraging news is that serious illnesses from Covid are also on the decline. The number of Americans hospitalized with Covid has fallen by around 25% since September 1. Daily deaths – which typically change direction within weeks of cases and hospitalizations – have fallen 10% since September 20. This is the first sustained decline in deaths since the start of the summer.
“The last great wave”?
This is the part of the bulletin where I must stress that these declines may not persist. The two-month cycle of Covid is not some iron law of science. There were a lot of exceptions.
In Britain, for example, the number of cases has fluctuated over the past two months, rather than steadily declining. In the United States, the onset of cold weather and increased indoor activities – or another unknown factor – could lead to an increase in cases this fall. The evolution of the pandemic remains very uncertain.
But this uncertainty also means that the near future could turn out to be Following encouraging than what we expected. And there are legitimate reasons for Covid’s optimism.
The share of Americans aged 12 and over who have received at least one vaccine injection has reached 76%, and the growing number of vaccination mandates – as well as the probable authorization of the Pfizer vaccine for children aged 5 to 11 – will increase the number of vaccinations. this autumn. Almost as important, something like half of Americans have probably had the Covid virus before, which gives them natural immunity.
Eventually, immunity will become widespread enough that another wave as large and damaging as the Delta wave is not possible. “Except something unexpected,” Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the FDA and author of “Uncontrolled spread,” a new book on Covid, told me, “I am of the opinion that this is the last great wave of infection.”
Covid has not only been one of the worst pandemics of modern times. It has been an unnecessarily terrible pandemic. Of the more than 700,000 Americans who have died from it, nearly 200,000 could probably have been saved had they chosen to be vaccinated. It is a national tragedy.
Covid isn’t going away anytime soon, either. It will continue to circulate for years to come, many scientists believe. But vaccines can turn Covid into a manageable disease, not all that different from the flu or a cold. In recent weeks, the country seems to have moved closer to that less bleak future.
Whatever happens this fall, the worst of the pandemic is almost certainly behind us.
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The Beatles in class
Would you like to get a master’s degree in The Beatles? In the group’s hometown, a postgraduate program aims to turn fans into students of the Fab Four legacy by studying their sociological, historical and economic impact.
As a new semester started last week at the University of Liverpool, 11 enthusiastic students, aged 21 to 67, gathered in class to begin the program. One was wearing a Yoko Ono t-shirt, Alex Marshall reports in The Times, while another had a yellow submarine tattooed on his arm. Two had named their sons Jude, after one of the most famous songs of the group.
Academics have been studying The Beatles for decades, and the program is the latest example. The Beatles are also big business locally: Liverpool’s association with the band was worth more than $ 110 million a year, according to a 2014 study. Tourists visit the sites named in the band’s songs and places where the group played.
Two professional tour guides from the course said they hoped the program would help them attract customers. “The tourism industry in Liverpool is fierce,” said one.
Another student, Alexandra Mason, recently graduated with a law degree, but decided to change her path when she heard about the Beatles’ class. “I never really wanted to be a lawyer,” she said. “In my head, I went from the ridiculous to the sublime. – Sanam Yar, a morning writer