Grrr. Will the COVID crisis ever end?

Photo: NIH/NIAID. Source: Flikr. CC-BY-2.0.

I’m sick of this disease. I’m sick of the masks, the restrictions, the constant drumbeat in the news. I’m sick of the fear that family members will get infected. I’m sick, sick, sick of how this disease has infected our bodies, our society, and – most significantly – our thinking.

This is personal. In the past couple weeks Pam and I have had three elderly parents infected with this disease. All three are in different states. We haven’t been able to go see any of them. Thankfully, they all appear to be on the mend. But it’s infuriating to have to sit by the phone and wait for news, rather than go and see how they’re doing, bring them meals, and care for them.

Everyone’s tired of this virus, and its baleful impact on our society. But we’re even more tired of the restrictions. Still, as even as we feel “Covid fatigue” set in, almost every country in the world is experiencing an upsurge in cases. Yesterday 140,000 new cases were reported in the US, three times as many as was common just a month ago.

Source: Worldometer.

But the situation isn’t unique to the United States. The same thing is happening in Canada, in Germany, in Denmark, in Japan. Everywhere, seemingly, but within island nations like Grenada, New Zealand, or Singapore. This Fall’s spike in cases was predicted back in April when we first “locked down” in order to stop the initial spread of the pathogen. Even though this surge was foreseen, however, it isn’t any easier to take. The virus has established itself in the population. And as long as we need to buy groceries or travel or visit relatives, we’ll remain exposed.

But good news is on the way. On Monday, Pfizer announced positive results for the Phase III trials of their mRNA Covid-19 vaccine, with a 90% efficacy rate reported among over 40,000 volunteers. The mRNA vaccine, unlike traditional inoculations, instructs our bodies to produce the antibodies necessary to fight the virus. Pfizer is already producing doses, and expects to have 25 million on hand by year-end, and could potentially produce 1.3 billion doses in 2021. A 90% efficacy rate means we would be able to get back to normal that much sooner. And Pfizer’s announcement is just the first of what will likely be a lot of positive news about different vaccine candidates.

If the fight against Covid is a running race, the announcement of a successful vaccine is like the “bell lap.” When we used to watch the Olympics (Remember those?), we could see and hear officials ringing a bell when the leaders had just one more lap to run. When I ran track in high school, I would get a surge of energy when I heard that bell. And then I would have to settle in for one more hard push. One more push, I would tell myself, and then I could collapse AFTER I crossed the finish line.

Photo: Phil Roeder. Source: Flikr. CC-BY-2.0

That’s where the economy is, that’s where we find ourselves. We need to steel ourselves for one more hard push, to get through Covid fatigue, to get through our government’s transition, to get through adjustments in the economy back to something more like normal. Yes, we’ve got a hard winter ahead. But – thanks to the hard work of a lot of people – we will get through it.