History of the 1st Year of Coronavirus: It Ain’t Over Yet

Phases of Disaster, Zunin & Myers as cited in DeWolfe, D. J., 2000

What happened then?

Lots of things happened that day. The President addressed the nation from the Oval Office. Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson had tested positive on the set of a film in Australia. The NBA, reeling from its own infections, would be the first pro sports league in America to suspend its season. Schools shut down, streets emptied, toilet paper disappeared from store shelves, airplanes flew with empty seats, people did Work From Home, hospital beds filled up, essential workers became heroes.

What have we learned about Coronavirus?

There are (at least) three things we had wrong about Coronavirus during this first year:

1. It’s Zoonotic

The original narrative was that the virus came from a wet market in Wuhan, China. It was believed to have jumped from bats to pangolins to humans. The WHO just concluded a study in China and found no evidence of this origin. The hypothesis of the virus having escaped a lab is increasingly given equal credence, with equivalent amounts of no evidence.

2. No Variants

Previously, it appeared that Coronavirus was stable, not a shapeshifter like the flu virus. But now we’re seeing several major variants worldwide that are more infectious, and in some cases, are becoming the new dominant variant.

  • B.1.351 — initially identified in South Africa — where it’s the primary variant, numerous vaccines were less effective at preventing infection: Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine dropped from 72% efficacy in the United States to 57% in South Africa. There’s also concern it may allow reinfection of those who’ve already had Coronavirus.
  • P.1 — first identified in Brazil — is prevalent in parts of South America
  • B.1.427/B.1.429 (initially identified in California)

3. Vaccine panacea

The previous administration’s Operation Warp Speed promised rapid distribution of tens of millions of doses to states by the end of 2020. But then the preparedness to distribute those to community vaccination locations varied by state. Alaska has fully vaccinated over 15% of its population, Utah has only vaccinated 6.5%.

Where are we now with Coronavirus?

The global death toll has grown to more than 2.6 million out of more than 117 million known cases. Almost 20% of those deaths, over half a million, come from the US.

Vaccination rates worldwide
CDC COVID Vaccination Tracker

Financial impact of Coronavirus

AMC Theatres reports a full-year loss of $4.58B amid the global pandemic, almost $1B loss this quarter.

Impact on Tourism
Impact on cruise lines
Impact on London Heathrow Airport

Going forward with Coronavirus

This week the CDC issued new guidance for those in the US who had received their full vaccination regime. It was not as relaxed as we had hoped, despite Coronavirus cases beginning to drop dramatically in mid-January, predictably two weeks after the holidays. There is an expectation this year of an “almost-normal summer,” but we hoped that last summer.

So, how does Coronavirus end?

Any pandemic ends when the virus is no longer prevalent worldwide or in multiple countries/regions. That can occur in a variety of ways:

  • Herd immunity: Infection and death rates plummet — also considered a medical end. That’s how the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 ended ­– those infected either died or developed an immunity.
  • Social: People simply get tired of living in fear and learn to live in a world with the disease. This is considered a social ending, which is not an actual end since the disease itself doesn’t go away. In this situation, the disease may continue to spread, which can delay the medical end. In some cases, it becomes endemic: a constant presence in a specific location. Malaria is endemic to parts of Africa.
Death rates dropping

Coronavirus Today

Yes, we grieve for the last year. But you and I are still here. Coronavirus case numbers are fewer, and the death rate is dropping. Let’s take hope. Keep the faith.

Writer and technologist. Author of fascinating articles about history, tech trends, and pop culture. billpetro.com @billpetro

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