As much as we’d like it to stop… There’s so much we don’t know, he said of the pandemic.
We are not at the beginning of the end of this pandemic, said sociologist, physician and Yale professor Nicholas Christakis, who wrote the Apollo Arrow: The profound and lasting impact of the coronavirus on our lives.
We are only at the end of the beginning.
Two steps forward, one step back
The dark winter that President-elect Joe Biden warned about is getting darker.
A teacher said classrooms at his school in the southern United States were closed two weeks ago when the coronavirus infection broke out. He reported seeing at least one infection on campus every school day in January. He asked to be identified only as Adrian for fear of losing his job.
Highly contagious variants of the coronavirus are likely to spread more widely in the United States and increase the number of deaths, according to the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrology and Evaluation.
There was a real spirit of optimism…. There was light at the end of the tunnel, said Adrian, who has been teaching for nearly six years.
He added that there is a constant uncertainty that is always hanging over us.
Last week, an unknown person led the board of directors of a camp for deaf and hard of hearing children and adult children in Maryland to close this summer for the second year in a row.
In the deaf community, we often travel from far and wide to be with other deaf peers, camp president Amy Crumrin, herself deaf, said by email. It becomes more difficult for children to understand why it takes so long to return to a normal life.
Crumrin said the decision to cancel the camp for about 40 children between the ages of 7 and 13 was due in large part to the slow spread of vaccines and the rise of more infectious possibilities – which Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, called a wake-up call for us all.
According to Crumrine, a sign language teacher in Montgomery County Public Education, it was a very difficult decision for the board. The deaf and deaf-blind children of KODA (Children of Deaf Adults) lose tremendous opportunities for communication.
Variants add an additional level of complexity
Scientists are concerned that several new variants of the coronavirus may become more dominant in the United States by spring, Fauci said.
The United States has already reported more than 400 cases of the variant coronavirus, which was first discovered in the United Kingdom. The British variant and another first identified in South Africa are more easily transmitted than the strain fighting the United States. There is no evidence that the newer variants are more lethal, although the increase in cases may lead to an increase in deaths.
I was hoping more for a summer where people can go to summer camp and travel and stuff. I’m not so sure anymore, epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch, director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told reporters in early January, quoting the British version. Chan School of Public Health’s Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics), quoting the UK version.
This only complicates the problem and underlines the need to vaccinate as soon as possible, he added. It’s a big deal for a world already busy trying to keep the old version under control.
Despite the difficulties associated with the slow rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine, Fauci recently predicted that the U.S. could vaccinate 70 to 85% of the adult population by the end of the summer, returning the country to a semblance of normality by the fall.
We’re going to have a party, but it’s going to take some time.
But Christakis said the long history of pandemics suggests that relative normality could be more like years. He predicts that by early 2022 herd immunity will be achieved and the majority of the population will receive the vaccine. But people will continue to wear masks and maintain their social distance. It will then take several years to recover from the psychological, social and economic shock of the virus.
Yes, on an individual level, vaccination is a good thing, but it’s not enough, he said. But even then, it will be like the tsunami has retreated from the coast but we have to rebuild our homes.
The end of the pandemic, Christakis predicts, will be followed by a period of exactly 20 years, as was the case after the 1918 flu pandemic.
In 2024, we’re gonna have a party… a kind of roar from the 20s of the 21st century. We’re going to have this 21st century plague. We are finally leaving the 21st century, said Christakis, who described a world of mass consumption, overcrowded stadiums and concert halls, overcrowded nightclubs and bars and compulsive exuberance.
He urged Americans not to despair over the current health crisis and to recognize the remarkable scientific progress made in less than a year in vaccine development.
We are the first living generation of humans to be confronted with this age-old threat of a scourge that has plagued mankind for thousands of years … and who has been able to invent a concrete and effective countermeasure in real time. So that’s great. It is absolutely beautiful and unprecedented.
He added that we need not depress…. But at the same time, we need to be realistic and mature, and the fantasy that the vaccine will suddenly and miraculously take us back to early 2019 is sadly not true. So I don’t want people’s expectations and hopes to be disappointed. I think we should work together. And let’s not forget that 3,000 or 40,000 Americans still die every day.
Therapeutic value of hope
David Blustein, professor of psychology at Boston College, said it’s important for people not to lose hope, but also be realistic that it could be a long time coming.
Hope, above all, has therapeutic value, he said. It’s good for us to be able to hope for the future. And it gives us a protective psychological armor. But we don’t want that hope to be completely unrealistic. Therefore, we need to look at our society’s past behavior. We were able to develop a vaccine in less than a year and several vaccines that work very well.
In Maryland, Crumrin said, organizers now hope to reopen the summer camp for deaf children in the summer of 2022.
It’s hard to be social at camp because many of the activities require teamwork, she says. In the deaf community we rely heavily on touch, tapping our shoulders for attention, hugging, touching our hands, touching our faces…. Too often deaf children are stuck at home with hearing parents without adequate access to language because they are usually the only deaf children at home.
Adrian, a high school teacher in the southern United States, recently wrote in a social media article that the prolonged pandemic has forced three colleagues he considered mentors to leave for other jobs. He said that he too had considered leaving, but that he didn’t want to turn his back on his students.
In time… We are under increasing stress, he said of teachers. And my to-do list seems to grow by ten items every day. And I’ve reached maybe two. I feel very overwhelmed… We’re just trying to get through the day and get to tomorrow.
David Williams, Jacqueline Howard, Kara Fox, MJ Lee, Kate Sullivan, Maggie Foxx, Jason Hannah, Madeline Holcomb, Christina McSuris and Holly Yan contributed to this story.