My COVID Times Diary: Peaks
The only way to get to that next peak is to be ready for that next valley. Being raised Irish, you know to always be ready for the bad times. ~ Rory O’Malley
Today, the day I’m writing this piece, January 23, 2021 seams to be the current peak of the current COVID pandemic in the United States. There has been a lot of reporting in the news about how the pandemic is peaking. And currently, we are absolutely at a peak and it’s a horrible one. Currently there are around 200,000 people a day testing positive and well over 3500 Americans dying everyday in America. This peak is the highest number for both of these terrible metrics. And correspondingly, we are starting to see, and expect to see a dip in both numbers. People are very optimistic about all of this especially in light of the continued, albeit not effective, rollout of the vaccine. That’s great, and if people do what they should, continue to mask, social distance and get vaccinated, this could become the beginning of a decline that leads to very low levels of infection and a resumption of very near to a pre-COVID level of normal life. But if we don’t, well, this isn’t the first peak and a lesson we need to learn from that is that even after a peak, the numbers can go up, they have before.
As you can see from the image above that shows the number of infections over time, that our current peak is the fifth and highest peak so we have experienced so far in this pandemic. As you can see, the number of infections is declining sharply at the moment, just like it did for each of the last three peaks. I also think it’s important to note that in the first two peaks of the virus, when we had higher participation rates in the shutdown and social distancing, we did in fact flatten the curve. As people have tired of taking precautions and as we rolled into the holiday season, we failed miserably at flattening the infection curve. The figure truly shows that simply and clearly, it’s up to us and as we’ve decided to act irresponsibly, infections have risen. It also shows that there is a cycle to the infections, as infections rise, people do in fact get more careful and infection drops.
So, I’m also optimistic that this may be the beginning of a long-term decline in infection rates. My optimism comes from first, that people are in fact showing up to get vaccinated. Second, since things are so bad and people are starting to know someone who not just tested positive, but has had symptoms, they will, at least for a time, take the virus more seriously and take precautions. The third is behavioral, in the western and southern parts of the US, weather starts improving from February into March giving people more options to be outdoors, reducing the perceived need to get together in indoor settings. And, there are no traditional gathering holidays in front of us until Easter. So I think this combination of factors means that we’ll see a decline in infection rates over the next three months.
There are of course caveats to my optimism. If the issues with vaccine supply continue or get worse, if people’s optimism leads them to reducing precautions or if the new variants are indeed significantly more infectious than the rate of decline might slow. If a number of these things come to pass, this may not be our last peak.
Wear a mask, socially distant and if able, get vaccinated.