On the third anniversary of the pandemic of COVID-19he coronavirus it continues to spread and the death toll is approaching 7 million worldwide. Nonetheless, most people have resumed their normal lives, thanks to a wall of immunity built from infections and vaccinations.
It seems the virus is here to stay, along with the threat of a more dangerous version spreading across the planet.
“New variants emerging anywhere threaten us everywhere,” said Thomas Friedrich, a virus researcher at the University of Wisconsin, Madison campus. “Maybe that will help people understand how connected we are.”
As information sources dwindle, it has become more difficult to monitor the pandemic. Johns Hopkins University on Friday shut down its trusted tracker, which it launched shortly after the virus emerged in China and spread around the world.
Last Saturday it was three years since the World Health Organization It first declared the outbreak a pandemic on March 11, 2020. The United Nations organization says it is not ready to declare the emergency over.
This is a look at the current situation:
The virus endures
As the pandemic continues to kill between 900 and 1,000 people a day across the globe, the stealthy virus responsible for COVID-19 It hasn’t lost its drive. It is easily transmitted from person to person, traveling in airborne respiratory droplets. In some cases it causes death, but most of those infected recover without suffering serious damage.
“Whatever the virus is doing today, it’s still working to find another winning route,” said Dr. Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute in California.
We have become numb to the daily death toll, Topol says, but we should consider it too high. It must be taken into account that in the United States daily hospitalizations and deaths, although they are lower than in the worst peaks, have not fallen to the low levels that were reached during the summer of 2021 before the wave of the variant arrived. delta.
At any time, the virus could mutate to become more transmissible, better able to evade the immune system, or more deadly. Topol said we’re not ready for that. Trust in public health agencies has eroded, leading to an exodus of public health officials. Resistance to stay-at-home orders and vaccination mandates could be the legacy of the pandemic.
“I wish we would unite against the enemy — the virus — instead of fighting each other,” Topol declared.
There is another way to see it. Humans cracked the genetic code of the virus and quickly developed vaccines that work remarkably well. We build mathematical models in order to prepare for the worst possible scenarios. We continue to monitor how the virus is changing by testing it in wastewater.
“The pandemic really catalyzed some amazing science,” Friedrich said.
The achievements add to a new normal in which the COVID-19 “It doesn’t necessarily have to be at the forefront of people’s minds,” said Natalie Dean, an associate professor of biostatistics at Emory University. “That, at least, is a victory.”
Dr. Stuart Campbell Ray, an infectious disease expert at Johns Hopkins, said current variants of omicron have about 100 genetic differences compared to the original variant of the coronavirus. That means that about 1% of the virus’s genome is different from what it was when it emerged. Many of those changes have made it more contagious, but the worst is likely over now due to population immunity.
Matthew Binnicker, an expert on viral infections at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, said the world is “in a very different situation today than three years ago, when there was essentially zero immunity to the original virus.”
This extreme vulnerability forced the adoption of measures aimed at “flattening the curve”. Shops and schools closed, weddings and funerals were postponed. Later on, masks and “social distancing” took a backseat to some degree, and it became more necessary to show proof that one was vaccinated. Now such precautions are already unusual.
“It is unlikely that we will go back to where we were because our immune systems can recognize a lot of the virus,” Ray said. Our immunity should protect us “from the worst we’ve seen in the past.”
Lack of information in real time
Last Friday, Johns Hopkins last updated its free hotspot map and dashboard on the coronavirus, which shows that the number of deaths remains over 6.8 million worldwide. Their government sources for real-time counts have drastically diminished. In the United States, only New York, Arkansas and Puerto Rico continue to publish case and death figures on a daily basis.
“We are very reliant on public information and it’s just gone,” said Beth Blauer, data lead for the project.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to collect various information from states, hospitals, and testing laboratories, including cases, hospitalizations, deaths, and which strains of the virus coronavirus are being detected. But for many counts, less information is now available and is less timely.
“The public has expected information from us that we will no longer be able to produce,” said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.
At the international level, the WHO’s tracking of the COVID-19 depends on the reporting of individual countries. Health officials around the world have expressed concern that their numbers grossly underestimate what is happening and do not have a true picture of the outbreak.
For more than a year, the CDC has stopped counting cases and diagnostic test results, in part due to an increase in unreported home tests. The agency focuses on hospitalizations, which continue to be reported every day, although that could change. Deaths continue to be reported, though the CDC relies less on daily reports and more on death certificates, which can take days or weeks to arrive.
Federal officials say they are adjusting to the circumstances and trying to adopt a tracking system somewhat similar to the CDC’s monitoring of influenza.
Then and now
“I wish we could go back to the pre-COVID days,” says Kelly Forrester, 52, of Shakopee, Minnesota, who lost her father to the disease in May 2020. She survived her own infection in December, and blames misinformation for ruining a long-standing friendship. “I hate her. I really hate her.”
The disease seems random to him. “You don’t know who is going to survive, who will have long-term COVID or a mild cold. And then other people will end up in the hospital, dying,” she said.
Forrester’s father, Virgil Michlitsch, 80, a retired meatpacker, deliveryman and elementary school custodian, died in a nursing home as his wife, daughters and granddaughters stood vigil outside the building in lawn chairs.
Not being at his bedside “was the hardest thing,” Forrester says.
After seeing the toll of the pandemic, her 24-year-old daughter decided to study for a master’s degree in public health.
“My dad would have been so proud of her,” Forrester said. “I’m so glad that she believed in it, that she wanted to do that and make things better for people.”
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