This is a surreal moment in the pandemic, full of hope and fear.
Here in the US, we are on the last leg of a marathon – vaccines are there, and appointments to get those injections are getting more and more frequent. People schedule the moments they have put off for a year or more. The finish is in sight.
At the very same moment, our will to push right through to the end hit a wall. The restrictions are lifted while cases are still high, causing the number of cases to skyrocket. Hospitals are getting busy again. Testing has expired, leaving us incomplete information when new variants emerge.
“We have so much to look forward to, so much promise and potential from where we are and so much cause for hope,” Rochelle Walensky said, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at a press conference this week. “But right now I’m scared.”
It’s the combination of pandemic fatigue and vaccination euphoria that can make the next few months the most heartbreaking as many people get sick and some tragically die.
In STAT this weekreporter Andrew Joseph writes about the specific pain families go through, as some members are vaccinated when their loved ones die from COVID-19.[A]As the weeks go by, ” writes Joseph, “ some deaths will increasingly feel like they may not have happened if the vaccination campaigns were a little faster, if we could hold back bumps in the spread a little longer, if we could get the transmission down. Reduce. a bit more.”
The past year has been riddled with deaths that didn’t have to happen. Earlier this week, Deborah Birx, a former coronavirus coordinator under the Trump administration, said, said in one CNN interview that hundreds of thousands of deaths in the US could have been avoided if the government had acted faster. But even after all those lessons and all those unnecessary deaths, the death toll is still growing – slower than before, but there’s nowhere else to go but up.
Meanwhile, in stark contrast to our national griefthere is the relief and joy of millions of people who are vaccinated every day.
It feels like we live in a permanent state of contradiction. Yesterday, the CDC relaxed travel guidelines for fully vaccinated people, while CDC director Walensky continued to do so urge people to stay at home and avoid unnecessary travelTexas and Mississippi are mandates for the lifting of masks and California relaxes restrictions, while President Biden warns repeatedly that the battle is not over yet
We wait awkwardly in this liminal space, caught between two possible ways that could play for months to come before we finally cross the finish line. Will we go through it beaming, with our friends and family by our side? Or will the heavens open with a roar, drench us, and drive some people off the track before they can reach the end?
“You look out the front window and it’s raining,” Nirav Shah, director of Maine’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention told The Washington Post, “But it’s sunny from the back window. And your house is literally on the eve of the storm and you don’t know which way it’s going – stormy or getting sunny? That’s kind of where we are in COVID. “
Here’s what else happened this week.
COVID showed how trials for new drugs can be done faster and better
Drug trials are usually expensive, time consuming and inaccessible – but the pandemic has shown that they are not to have to be one of those things. Here’s an interesting interview about how they can change in the future. (Claudia Wallis /Scientific American
The COVID-19 vaccine ‘passports’ are not exactly the same as yellow fever certifications
Many different groups are looking for ways in which people can prove whether or not they have been vaccinated. But these ‘vaccine passports’ can be an ethical nightmare. For even more information on vaccine passports, take a look at this Wired story(Nicole Wetsman /The edge)
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is said to be potent protective in adolescents
Early tests of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine in 12-15 year olds have shown the vaccine to be remarkably protective and safe. (Apoorva Mandivalli /The New York Times
Mistakes are ruining 15 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine
A confusion at a vaccine manufacturing plant has ruined 15 million doses of the one-time vaccine. The doses are not divided. (Nicole Wetsman /The edge
Keeping Covid vaccines cold isn’t easy. These ideas can help.
Many vaccines must be kept cold to remain potent. It’s a complicated process now, but there may be some better options in the future. (Wudan Yan /MIT Tech Review
Amelia stormed out of her family’s car and catapulted herself into her grandfather’s arms. Henry followed him, a brand new monster truck in his backpack, waiting to whiz across the floor of his grandparents. Jackie grabbed him so tight she almost lifted him straight out of his red Crocs. How big had he grown. She was crying.
– Evan Allen talks about the emotional reunion of a family in front of The Boston Globe
More than numbers
To the people who received the 628 million vaccine doses distributed so far – thank you.
To the more than 129,998,978 people worldwide who have tested positive, may your path to recovery go smoothly.
The families and friends of the 2,832,850 people who have died worldwide – 553,946 of those in the US – are not forgotten about your loved ones.
Stay safe, everyone.