It’s hard to categorize what I’m feeling right now regrading COVID-19. But at root, I think it’s a race, and I’m not sure how it’s going to play out (especially since I’ve stopped predicting things).
On the one hand, we see spiking cases
At the original peak (in July) we were seeing ~70,000 new cases/day. Now, that number is more than double that, at around 150,000-160,000 new cases/day. Fortunately, the case-fatality rate (the proportion of reported cases of a specified disease or condition which are fatal within a specified time) is going down from around 7% at its peak to less than 1% now.
But given that the number of cases is so much higher, even with a lower case-fatality rate, we’re still seeing lots of people dying from COVID (just under 250,000 to date). I can see this personally in my clinical work in the demand for my time. Over the summer and early fall, many of the shifts that I do at hospitals on a per diem basis (filling in just when they needed help) dried up. However now, every hospital where I have privileges has been asking for time as they are dealing with increasing volumes, and places where I don’t have privileges are trying to get me to sign up. Clearly, the surge is coming/already here.
On the other hand, we’re hearing very encouraging news on the vaccine front. While the data is very preliminary, Pfizer has announced that their vaccine was 90% effective in preventing COVID in people without prior COVID infection. Completion of the study and peer review is still pending. In addition, Moderna has announced that their vaccine has 94.5% efficacy in preventing COVID, and noted that none of the patients who developed severe COVID were in the vaccine group. Again, completion of the study and peer review are still pending. If these vaccines can be rapidly deployed, are as good as these preliminary results appear to be, and people are willing to actually take them (recent polling shows 35% people would not), we could finally put an end to this pandemic.
So, who wins the race? Is it the virus overwhelming our healthcare system and causing irreparable damage to peoples’ lives and the economy? Or is it public health measures and modern medicine with social distancing, masks, and vaccines? I won’t make a prediction, but I know what I’m rooting for. And in these times of polarization, at least this is one thing we can all agree on.