On to 2021

Several months ago we learned that SARS-CoV-2 is more infectious than the flu. Roughly twice as infectious, in fact.

That hasn’t changed.

Several months ago we learned that the disease caused by this novel coronavirus, called COVID-19, is at least ten times deadlier than the flu.

That hasn’t changed.

Several months ago we learned that your chance of getting infected with the coronavirus was directly proportional to the number of people you got within six feet of, particularly indoors, and particularly for any extended time. “Two meters, two minutes” was a good mantra.

That hasn’t changed.

2020 comes to an end this evening and we are all looking forward to 2021. In the meantime there have been about 20 million infections in this country. With roughly 340 million residents, that’s (20/340 = 0.059) just under six percent of the population.

Six percent is A LOT. Here in Siskiyou county there have been 1,000 infections in 44,000 people for a rate of (1/44 = 0.023) just over two percent. We are luckier here, but two percent is still A LOT.

The virus has killed over 340,000 Americans. That’s 1 in 1,000. That is not a happy number.

2021 brings hope with the emergence of several apparently quite effective vaccines. This is an exceptional achievement. Advances in virology, genetics, and molecular biology over the last two decades have paid off in spectacular fashion. I for one am eager to participate in this great experiment. All medical advances, no matter how well tested in advance, are experiments. This particular experiment has an excellent chance of stunning success, however. The evidence is good, and it should give us confidence in the process. The people creating these vaccines know what they are doing!

So, that’s a nice change. We know what hasn’t changed: SARS-CoV-2 is twice as infectious as the flu, COVID-19 is at least ten times deadlier than the flu, and your chances of getting the coronavirus depend on the number and intensity of your contacts with other people. The virus spreads by respiratory droplets from breathing, coughing, talking, sneezing, singing, etc. That’s why mask-wearing works to reduce the spread. That fact hasn’t changed, either, even though folks are still arguing about it.

I like to look ahead. Lots of things don’t change, but some do. I hope I can get the vaccine soon, but even more, I hope those folks who really need to be protected get it first. I’m 61 and in good health. I’m retired and have a comfortable and safe place to be. I can wait, even if I don’t want to. Too many other people have to be out there facing the public, and I mean literally face-to-face, and they should certainly be ahead of me in line. There are almost 50 million Americans who are over 65—they get to cut in front, too.

I think there will be many lasting changes from this pandemic. I know we like to focus on “getting back to normal” and I understand that desire. I’m more interested in the changes that will happen, and in the ones that might happen because we now have some opportunities that didn’t exist before. We hear tech entrepreneurs bragging all the time about being “disruptors” in the marketplace. Worse, they go around defending themselves with a twisted appeal to capitalist virtue, as if making a killing puts you on a moral high ground. Innovation is fine, I’m all for it, but just because something is new and different (and makes you rich) doesn’t mean it is necessarily good for society.

Mother Nature provided us all with a big disruptor in 2020. What shall we make of it? Good things, I hope.

In the meantime, take care and stay safe.

Have a happy and prosperous 2021!

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