By BRIAN SCHRADER
The news has been filled with a lot of doom and gloom lately, but on our first and hopefully only lockdown-iversary, we actually have cause to be a bit optimistic. We know more now than we ever have about how to fight COVID-19, and we’re on the final leg of the race to end the pandemic. Sure, there’s still reason to worry —the COVID-19 variants are concerning—but it’s also important for us to realize just how far we’ve come.
For starters, we have a number of effective vaccines and most appear to remain effective against the new variants of COVID-19 that are gaining steam. It’s hard to remember now, but last year the FDA and CDC were hesitant to claim that we’d have even one 50% effective vaccine by year’s end. Today we have multiple highly effective vaccines being actively distributed and even more awaiting approval. This is nothing short of a scientific miracle.
We’re also at the end of a holiday surge. That means that hospitals are no longer overflowing, and that businesses and schools can start to reopen. This is all really good news.
On the therapeutics side, between last year and the present we’ve learned better strategies to treat severe cases of COVID-19 and we have a number of effective approved treatments.
More importantly though, our vaccination efforts are going really well. I won’t pull punches. The county took too long to start vaccinating in large numbers and too long to open the superstations but I also will not deny: The current results of San Diego County’s vaccination efforts are impressive. Nationally, about 14% of Americans are vaccinated (at time of writing), and California is at about the same rate. At the same time, San Diego County has a vaccination rate of over 19%. That’s a nearly 36% improvement over the state and national average. If that rate continues to grow, San Diego will achieve a localized herd immunity much sooner than the state as a whole. This is incredible, and the county deserves due credit for making it happen.
In other good news, the United States is now vaccinating faster than the virus is spreading. Obviously, this will only continue to be true if we mask and social distance — and that can change depending on the prevalence of the new variants — but for now we’re outpacing the pandemic. If we can keep ahead of the spread of COVID-19, we’ll not only save lives and improve the timeline to herd immunity, but we’ll also dampen possible future surges from more contagious variants.
There are plenty of reasons to be upset with how we’ve handled our response to the pandemic—I’ve written about a few of them—but we shouldn’t ignore the fact that the sun is beginning to pierce the clouds. We’re actually winning this war. President Biden has promised anyone who wants a shot will be able to get one by the end of July, and the New York Times is projecting that we could reach herd immunity by mid-to-late summer if distribution rates continue to improve. This is all a huge deal.
None of this means we can let up on the gas. We must remain vigilant; we all need to continue to wear masks, get tested, and practice social distancing for now, but there is light at the end of this tunnel. There will probably be a surge of cases as the more contagious variants rise to prominence. As long as we keep following guidelines and precautions, and keep vaccinating, that surge will but the last gasp of a tragedy that will finally be behind us.
Stay strong. We’re almost done.
— Brian Schrader is a software developer in Normal Heights and writer at www.democracyandprogress.com.