Light At The End Of The Tunnel

One of the things that has made endurance difficult through the pandemic is the lack of an endpoint. A great many yardsticks are available from many sources – cases by day or month, numbers of hospital beds available, hospitalizations, deaths – but not when things are likely to get better, when we can see our friends and family in person again, when children can return to school, when we can feel safer.

The measures we have go up and slightly down, then up again. They can be tied to the early call to “open things up” long before it was wise to, with no plans for stopping the spread. They can be tied to the politicization of measures, like mask-wearing, that might have helped to stop the spread. The general movement in numbers has been upwards, to our current state of almost 4000 deaths daily and a total of 400,000 dead, a medium-sized city of Americans gone forever.

In New Mexico, we’ve seen a bump up from the holidays, and the numbers seem to be going down again, but we don’t know whether that will last.

The lack of an endpoint results from the lack of a plan. So parents feel like they will be teaching their children at home forever. Senior citizens feel like they will be isolated in their homes or retirement communities forever. Young people feel like they will never be able to go to a restaurant again or have a party. It is not surprising that they take any excuse to break the rules, which feel arbitrary because there are so many voices.

But Joe Biden has plans for addressing covid-19 and for vaccinating people quickly. The plans contain markers that we will see being met (or not). One hundred million vaccinations within the first 100 days. Make vaccines more available in more places, like through mobile vaccination clinics. Hire people to trace contacts. Provide funds to schools to prepare for safe in-person learning.

If everything in these plans is carried out, we will begin to see an endpoint. Case numbers and deaths will decrease. We will be able to do some normal things, like go to the store, without feeling that we are endangering our lives. Children will go back to school.

The virus is so widespread now that nothing will happen quickly. We’ve watched the maps turn redder and redder with uncontrolled community spread. Time delays are built into decreases in numbers, just as they are for increases. Ron Klain, President-elect Biden’s chief of staff and manager of Barack Obama’s response to the Ebola virus, says that we will see a total of a half-million dead by the end of February.

The pandemic has momentum. But if we mask up for 100 days, if Congress grants a more appropriate level of support, the Biden plans will work. We can start to see a turnaround by the end of February, slow at first, then gathering speed. For now, that turnaround is my light in the tunnel. Once we get there, we will start to see the light that is the end of the pandemic.

Cross-posted to Balloon Juice

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