… daily vaccination rates are slipping, and there is widespread consensus among scientists and public health experts that the herd immunity threshold is not attainable — at least not in the foreseeable future, and perhaps not ever.
Instead, they are coming to the conclusion that rather than making a long-promised exit, the virus will most likely become a manageable threat that will continue to circulate in the United States for years to come, still causing hospitalizations and deaths but in much smaller numbers.
How much smaller is uncertain and depends in part on how much of the nation, and the world, becomes vaccinated and how the coronavirus evolves. It is already clear, however, that the virus is changing too quickly, new variants are spreading too easily and vaccination is proceeding too slowly for herd immunity to be within reach anytime soon.
The problem is a combination of vaccine hesitancy and COVID mutation:
The predominant variant now circulating in the United States, called B.1.1.7 and first identified in Britain, is about 60 percent more transmissible.
As a result, experts now calculate the herd immunity threshold to be at least 80 percent. If even more contagious variants develop, or if scientists find that immunized people can still transmit the virus, the calculation will have to be revised upward again.
Plus, it’s a global problem: even if we have a high vaccination rate here, new localized mini-waves of infection can be set off by people visiting from, or returning form, abroad, especially if vaccination rates are lower there.
In time, the best we may be able to hope for is making COVID a seasonal problem like the influenza. Probably with another annual shot or two.
Naturally, vaccination skeptics will respond “why bother?” which is totally the wrong reaction…the more people are vaccinated, the less spread there will be. Not to mention the better the chances of the person actually surviving an infection.
But remember: people choosing not to get vaccinated–even if vaccination almost entirely protects the 97% of the non-immunocompromised population from serious breakthrough infections of the type requiring hospitalizations–or wear masks in public, which helps reduce transmission of COVID, are making a personal choice that we all should respect. If that purely personal private liberty-loving choice somehow mysteriously has an effect on others, then it is the responsibility of those others–who probably don’t exercise or take care of themselves right–to alter their behavior regardless of the external costs blithely imposed upon the whole state by the freedom-loving among us whom, my commentators and others (like Fl. Gov. Ron DeSantis) instruct, we must coddle and respect and not burden with our greedy desire to do things like drink clean tap water or have an open hospital bed available if we need one.
So, today, I suppose we must invest in home water filters or environmentally hazardous plastic-bottled water, until that runs out, anyway. What? That’s not in your budget? Tough on you, eh? Stand up and learn not to drink so much water! (Wait, staying well hydrated is good for you? But, but…) And, meanwhile, feel the patriotism! And thank Gov. DeSantis for his leadership on the COVID issue! And wait for tomorrow…
As the delta variant spreads through Florida, data published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest this could be the most serious and deadly surge in COVID-19 infections since the beginning of the pandemic.
As cases ballooned in August, however, the Florida Department of Health changed the way it reported death data to the CDC, giving the appearance of a pandemic in decline, an analysis of Florida data by the Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald found.
On Monday, Florida death data would have shown an average of 262 daily deaths reported to the CDC over the previous week had the health department used its former reporting system, the Herald analysis showed. Instead, the Monday update from Florida showed just 46 “new deaths” per day over the previous seven days.
The dramatic difference is due to a small change in the fine print. Until three weeks ago, data collected by DOH and published on the CDC website counted deaths by the date they were recorded — a common method for producing daily stats used by most states. On Aug. 10, Florida switched its methodology and, along with just a handful of other states, began to tally new deaths by the date the person died.
If you chart deaths by Florida’s new method, based on date of death, it will generally appear — even during a spike like the present — that deaths are on a recent downslope. That’s because it takes time for deaths to be evaluated and death certificates processed. When those deaths finally are tallied, they are assigned to the actual data of death — creating a spike where there once existed a downslope and moving the downslope forward in time.
Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran announced late Monday that the Florida Department of Education has withheld the monthly salaries of school board members in Alachua and Broward counties who voted to impose mask mandates that only provide for a medical exemption from a doctor. The state actually withholds the equivalent in funding of the members’ salaries.
I am sure that our very educated Governor (Yale College, Harvard Law) could, if he wanted, explain how the rule of law is for suckers, not the manly types who plan to inherit Trump’s mantle and govern with the mailed fist. But that is the unspoken part of the act.
More likely he would argue that since the injunction against enforcement of DeSantis’s anti-mask-rule order doesn’t technically forbid the Florida Dept. of Ed from just happening spontaneously to implement the DeSantis policy of fining counties for having a mask requirement, without formally relying on the Governor’s order. So, that’s all alright until another court issues a more far-reaching injunction.
And indeed, as a formal legal matter that argument about the limited reach of the original injunction might be accurate. (It’s a little hard to tell from the news reports of the decision.) But the question then is whether the mask-requirement-in-schools issue is one for which this sort of legal hardball (or sophistry?) is morally appropriate. I appreciate that there might be deep issues of principle where such an action might even be praiseworthy — don’t do something horrible until there is no legal argument left unturned, and then resign rather than sign the order sending people to the camps. I simply cannot conceive of the masking rule as such a deep question of liberty and principle; we require K-12 students to have various immunizations, and to wear clothes, indeed many public schools have quite strict dress codes. But here, the DeSantis admin is using these arguments to advance their play-to-the-base electoral scheme to block life-saving health measures. Even if this is a valid technicality, it is being harnessed in favor of a policy that will — there’s no way to sugar-coat this — kill people.
As The Times reported on Wednesday: “More people in Florida are catching the coronavirus, being hospitalized and dying of Covid-19 now than at any previous point in the pandemic.” The Times continued, “This week, 227 virus deaths were being reported each day in Florida, on average, as of Tuesday, a record for the state and by far the most in the United States right now.”
… DeSantis is playing to an electorate beyond the panhandle. As long as he is still mentioned in the same breath as Biden, even if the coverage is negative, he is playing well among Republicans. As long as he is fighting Washington and Democrats and experts, it doesn’t matter to entrenched Republicans that he’s not fighting the plague.
Some bodies must be sacrificed to appease the gods of partisan resistance.
To keep the spotlight, DeSantis is employing many of the same tricks as Trump: fighting with the media about coverage, deflecting blame onto Biden and convincing his followers that folding to facts is the same as forfeiting freedoms.
As DeSantis said in early August, “We can either have a free society, or we can have a biomedical security state.” He continued, “And I can tell you: Florida, we’re a free state. People are going to be free to choose to make their own decisions.”
Yes, Florida, DeSantis is allowing you to choose death so that he can have a greater political life.
Florida reported another 901 previously unreported COVID-related deaths on Thursday, sending the 7-day average soaring to the highest it’s been through the pandemic. Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control also showed 21,183 new cases.
The 901 deaths is the highest number reported in Florida, which has been releasing death counts in batches based on the date the deaths occurred. The 7-day trend based on the date the death was reported stands at 242, according to the Sun Sentinel’s analysis of the CDC data.
But, hey! Things are even worse in Alabama and Mississippi, so not to worry, right?
As of Wednesday, Florida ranked third in the nation for both average daily COVID cases and deaths per 100,000 population.