Why does COVID-19 frighten us, and why did it represent such a serious and nearly-unprecedented threat in the early months of 2020?
- It could kill you!
- It could put you in the hospital, along with a lot of other people, and overwhelm the capacity of our medical systems, so that anyone with any ailment has trouble getting treated!
- You could end up as a long hauler, and dealing with mild-to-serious health problems and complications long after your initial infection.
Once you move beyond those particularly dire outcomes, COVID-19 really is comparable to the flu. Getting the flu stinks. Sometimes it’s really bad, and you’re sick in bed for a week. Sometimes it’s not that bad. And sometimes with influenza, you’re asymptomatic. But it rarely gives you a long-term health problem, and we don’t live in overwhelming fear of catching the flu, and we don’t shut down society each winter because of it.
And we’ve got good news on all of these fronts.
The death rate in the U.S. declined steeply in February and March, and has mostly plateaued in April – although yesterday’s seven-day moving average of 738 deaths is the lowest since mid-October. We’ve got most of the elderly and immunocompromised vaccinated.
In terms of hospital capacity, we’re well past the danger zone in most parts of the country. In the week ending April 8, an average of 70 percent of intensive care hospital beds were occupied nationwide, according to a dataset released weekly by the Department of Health and Human Services.
Finally, I don’t want to paint with too broad a brush, but some of the “long haulers” say that vaccination has helped their symptoms.
A Facebook group called “Survivor Corps” polled 962 COVID-19 long haulers and found 39 percent said they saw mild to full resolution of their lingering symptoms after they were vaccinated.
46 percent of people said they remained the same after their shot, 14 percent said they felt worse.
A virus that isn’t as likely to kill people, isn’t going to put them in the hospital, and that gives someone long-term health issues that can be mitigated or cured is a much milder threat — and we should be able to live our lives much closer to “normal” as these worst-case-scenarios become less and less common, thanks to vaccinations.