Most Americans are over Covid, which is a very good thing. But what about the disease itself? Has it gone away, not to return, or will it be back soon in another wave and perhaps another variant?
This screen shot comes from the CDC web site. It shows total deaths in the US, from all causes, by week. Over the last five or six months, total fatalities have essentially tracked with the historic demographic record, so that Covid has contributed little or nothing to total mortality:
You might look at this and say that Covid seems to be gone for good. Except that we have been through this drill before. The exact same thing happened in 2021: a peak in January, followed by a rapid decline, and essentially no excess mortality for five months or so. If we go back to 2020, the pattern is a little different, since Covid didn’t strike as early. But the rapid decline early in that year is similar.
A year ago, looking at the same chart, I thought Covid seemed to be on the way out. That conclusion was premature. So how is this year different? I don’t think it is; not much, anyway. At this point, Covid is pretty much the common cold. My wife caught it a couple of weeks ago, and I caught it from her. In our experience, it was not a particularly severe cold, but it hung on and didn’t want to go away. It was similar to H1N1, which I caught 10 or 12 years ago, whenever that was.
Just as the common cold or influenza didn’t strike for a couple of years and then disappear, Covid likely will be a permanent part of our landscape. I am no biologist, but I suspect that Covid has taken over some portion of the biological niche that colds and flu have long occupied. Over the years, it may become less severe, although Omicron is already pretty benign.
My point (and I do have one, as Scott likes to say) is that we should be prepared for the likelihood that, just as in 2020 and 2021, the fall will bring an increase in Covid cases and Covid mortality. If that happens, as I think it likely will, it is crucial that we not give in to repressive forces: we must not close our children’s schools, we must not shut down businesses and churches, and, as important as anything, we must not resurrect the idiotic mask mandates that have scarred our culture and our children’s development for the last two years.
Covid is not over as a disease–with a few exceptions, diseases are rarely “over”–but it is vitally important that Covid be over as a justification for totalitarian policies and disruptions in our way of life.