Feb 08 2021

Life in the Time of Corona(virus) – Day 328 – Super Bowl Edition

by at 7:15 am under Uncategorized

Super Bowl Sunday. Or is it Blendsday? In retrospect, this is the second Super Bowl of the COVID-19 pandemic, which claimed its first American life on February 6, 2020. We just didn’t know it back then. Here we are, a year later, a seeming lifetime ago, awakening from a nightmare, feeling somber but hopeful. Cases are down, but are still way too high. More Americans were vaccinated last week than were newly infected. Yet, only about 10% have been vaccinated.

For those of us who have been vaccinated, life can begin to assume “normalish” dimensions, though restaurants, trips and crowds should remain on the laughably distant horizon. Then there are the four groups of unvaccinated people — 1) the “gotta have its,” 2) the “never gonna get its,” 3) the “don’t care if I get its,” and 4) the “don’t care if you get its.” A significant plurality of Americans fit into group 1, but groups 2 and 3 represent a significant chunk of our society. I am not sure if we can do much to convince those people of the urgent need to protect themselves and their neighbors because of either their deeply held beliefs that admit no reasonable, fact-based discourse or their terminal alienation. We must continue to try, but I am not optimistic that we can change hearts and minds quickly enough to influence their risks. Group 1 will take care of its needs as supplies and supply chains are improved. Group 4 — the historically underserved communities, who are entitled to all health protections that have been too long denied to them — deserve special focus and efforts. If you missed it, I commend to you the powerful op-ed written by 50 members of the National Academy of Medicine — including our Lucile Adams-Campbell — in the Sunday New York Times, expressing the need to use this moment to change a shameful legacy of our country’s history. How meaningful it would be to more closely approach herd immunity by doing the right thing, in the process allowing our communal life to resume some semblance of normality.

I hope I am wrong, but at this point I will be surprised if we can get above the 50% vaccination threshold. This will be the lasting, most toxic legacy of the past four years. Immunizing 165 million Americans would be a wonderful accomplishment, but will leave us far short of even the most optimistic definitions of minimum herd immunity thresholds. Accordingly, I fear that the COVID pandemic will not end with a bang, nor with a whimper. Rather, it will continue to simmer on the back burner, churning out mutant variants with glee as it feasts on the naive respiratory tracts of millions upon millions of unprotected victims in waiting. Eventually, it will fade away, but not for a few years.

Under those conditions, it’s hard to imagine a return to that idyllic time when stadiums were filled, and home Super Bowl parties burst with maskless friends and family sharing from a pot of chili, screaming their lungs out, united in their hatred (and barely disguised envy) of Tom Brady. However, I can see this happening by 2025 or so. And damn it, Brady will still be the starting quarterback in that Super Bowl, even though he’ll be 47 years old!

Stay safe and be well.



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