As the U.S. approaches 500,000 deaths from Covid-19 in a year, a realistic view has begun to be accepted as explained two weeks ago by Washington Post science writer Carolyn Johnson:
It has become clear that coronavirus variants can slip past some of the immunity generated by vaccines and prior infections. The virus is here to stay — and scientists will have to remain vigilant. Vaccines may have to be updated, perhaps regularly. And the world will have to prepare for the possibility, even the likelihood, that over the long term, the novel coronavirus will become a persistent disease threat, albeit one that could eventually end up closer to the flu or the common cold.
Here in California this morning another science writer, Lisa Krieger, tell us in The Mercury News:
A coronavirus variant first identified in Denmark is now surging through California and represents more than half of samples in 44 counties, according to new UC San Francisco data.
The variant, called L452R, appears to be more transmissible than the original strain of the virus, although it does not appear as contagious as the UK variant, scientists found.
Also worrisome is evidence that links it to worse outcomes, such as intensive care unit admission and death. Additionally, vaccinated people appeared to produce fewer antibodies in response to the variant, suggesting it might be more resistant to our immune defenses.
The variant “should likely be designated a variant of concern, warranting urgent follow-up investigation,” concludes Dr. Charles Chiu of UC San Francisco, whose lab is collaborating with the state’s Department of Public Health to seek cases of the new variant. The findings, which have not been peer reviewed, were released Monday morning.
The variant, which Chiu’s lab estimates to have emerged in California in May 2020, increased in prevalence from 0% to more than 50% of cases during the sampling period. It has been blamed for outbreaks at nursing homes, jails and the emergency department at Kaiser Permanente San Jose, where a staff member wearing an inflatable Christmas tree costume might have infected at least 90 people.
As noted here last August, there are no analogies to use when discussing the future of the coronavirus except Johnson's phrase "a persistent disease threat."
Both Moderna and Pfizer are working on boosters for variants. That is both reassuring and frustrating for those of us who have had our two shots. It's reassuring that they are recognizing the long term reality of the disease. But it's frustrating to note that a week after getting our second shot the long term future is in as yet untested booster shots.
Perhaps the saddest reality is the deaths of half-a-million Americans in a year, as reflected in stories like A Ripple Effect of Loss: U.S. Covid Deaths Approach 500,000. However, over a longer term Covid-Linked Syndrome in Children Is Growing, and Cases Are More Severe and Covid Survivors With Long-Term Symptoms Need Urgent Attention, Experts Say indicate we may have even more problems as the pandemic continues or settles down into regional or local epidemics.
And none of this reflects the Extended Economic Distortion that has been created by the attempts to contain the pandemic.