Winter 2020: The Great Fire

In early July, we released an exhaustive article on COVID-19 trends. It was meticulously researched, with dozens of subordinate links to data sources. In it, we cited our earlier prediction that, unless Americans were to act with unprecedented foresight and responsibility, we were looking at between one and six million deaths by the end of autumn. Our tracking gave us cause for cautious optimism.

Winter officially begins in one week, and the official COVID-19 death count just passed 300,000. Given the standard two to six week lag time in reports combined with a 3000+ person daily increase, the final numbers will be closer to 400,000 by that point. Advances in hospital treatment protocols combined with local lockdowns and responsible behavior in much of the country have prevented, at great cost, the loss of millions of American lives. Our optimism has proven justified.

Bear in mind: Some of that cost is bankruptcy, economic disruption, and personal ruination. A great deal has been paid in suicides, domestic homicides, and death related to voluntary yet unwise delay of medical treatment for other diseases. Oh, and we’re about to have a major market collapse in real estate once commercial assistance ends on January 1st. The true cost of COVID-19 has been horrific indeed, and we’re still paying.

Thanksgiving was celebrated by millions, some unwisely, and the numbers are spiking now in response. More local lockdowns are going into effect, but this time due to the upcoming holiday season they’re being ignored. Despite a great deal of warning and a massive oversupply of available untrained labor, there has been no real effort to up-staff hospitals in the face of a projected nursing demand of gigantic proportions in the dead of winter.

Hope is on the horizon. Vaccines are even now being delivered in the millions of doses — but too late! Ah, too late! Even if the projected 1.5 million doses are given to healthcare workers by the end of the week, this first shot provides only limited protection starting two weeks out, and a second shot sometime after that will be needed for full effect. Christmas is one week from Friday, not two. So very close to the finish line, and we’ve failed by such a narrow margin.

Here’s how this is going to go:

As many as two hundred million Americans will ignore the science, the news, the numbers, and the restrictions. They will shop in person, visit friends and relatives, cook feasts for large groups, and travel outside their personal quarantine zone. Millions will pass through our airports, bus terminals, rail hubs, and Pilot travel stops and gas stations. Most of the rest will violate quarantine slightly, perhaps visiting only with a single other household — but one exposure is all it takes, and nine out of ten people at the table will get sick.

Five will show no symptoms. Four will have a miserable cold, and the normal remedies will prove ineffective; you won’t die but you may well want to. One will need to be hospitalized some time within the following month, for a period ranging from three days to… well, for the rest of their lives. As many as ten million people may need a hospital bed before the end of February, and there are only one million total beds available — most of which are occupied by people busily dying in the normal way.

And remember: The vaccine won’t fully protect our doctors and nurses by then.

This infectious phase will have an initial peak between a few days and a week after Christmas, by which time some few of our medical personnel will have developed a small immune response — perhaps 10% to 25% effective. (A small number will be suffering from vaccine side effects and will be out sick — being doctors and nurses, they’re required to call in for a sniffle and a headache.) The second mini-peak will come between one and two weeks later, as co-workers, visited friends, and everyone who flew home all start to show symptoms. Immediately after comes the bloom, as other households become infected and fail to quarantine internally. The number of infected will at least triple.

Against this we have the race to full vaccine deployment, which goes to hospital staff this week and at-risk patients next week. The most vulnerable will be next, and a small percentage of the populace will gain partial to full immunity by the end of February. If the Moderna vaccine is approved along with the present Pfizer shot, as many as forty million Americans can be vaccinated by March.

But the viral bloom will hit somewhere in mid to late January.

We’ve paid a high price — some would even say too high — to buy such time as we have, and as many as thirty million Americans have survived COVID as a result. Perhaps half a million lives have been saved by keeping our hospitals from filling up; perhaps more. But if we don’t stay home through Christmas, this won’t be nearly enough.

We’re almost there. Freedom is so close we can taste it. And the temptation is so very great; some of us haven’t had real human contact in eight months. We haven’t gotten a hug, or gone to a bar, conversed with someone face-to-face, or had sex. The vaccine is coming; people are optimistic… hopeful, even.

Make no mistake: That optimism will kill you. Worse, it will kill millions of other Americans.

Merry Christmas. Now stay the fuck at home.

All opinions, of course, are those of the author. If you disagree, that’s fine; put your money where your mouth is. I suggest a wager: Put The Not Fake News in your will. Write it out right now, then sign and date it. That way, if we’re right and you die of COVID after experiencing a lovely Christmas feast, at least some good will come of your self-centered, hard-headed asininity.

Whether you agree or not, funds can be sent via PayPal, or you can hit the button below and Buy Me A Ramen. I’m thinking of constructing a ramen noodle turkey this year, if only enough donations come in. It’ll be chicken flavor, mind; there’s no way enough cash will come in to pay for the expensive ramen.

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