Our GM has thrown down a marker on what the fail will look like in the US, Covid-wise. Via e-mail:
There is no conceivable way there will be school without mass infection.
The most optimistic modelling I have seen, assuming masking and everything, project 30% of kids getting infected within 2 months. But without masks it will be 80% within 2 months.
And with B.1.617.2 household attack rates are near-100%. Make that 50% with vaccines, that is still a total disaster. Especially where you have multigenerational households (and we all know who will be hit the hardest because of that factor, and vaccine uptake is very low there too).
The only time we saw what truly uncontrolled mass infection looks like in a place with a high median age was in Bergamo early on in the pandemic. Even NYC only managed to infect 25% of the population, and that caused all-cause mortality to shoot up 900% and killed 0.35% of the population. Everywhere else we had one of two situations:
1. In countries with high median age, there was some form of mitigation or people were aware of what is happening and retreated voluntarily, because they could, as high-median age countries are also generally better off economically
2. Really high attack rates above 50% were only seen where populations are young, in Latin America, Africa and India. Because young populations make that more tolerable while young populations are also found in poor countries where people cannot shield.
That still resulted in truly catastrophic situations, e.g. Guayaquil in Ecuador in March/April 2020 (where they had corpses out on the streets bring-out-your-dead style because too many were dying and they could not bury them), Iquitos in April/May 2020, Manaus (twice), India, etc.
But we have not really seen 50-70% of the population getting infected at once in an area with a median age of 40. It is anyone’s guess what that looks like, the higher-order effects are unpredictable, all sorts of things can break down without anyone expecting it.
The hope is that the vaccines will blunt the impact, but that is not guaranteed at all. Viral evolution has actually accelerated — we are up to AY.25 now, it is picking up mutations in the Nsp and ORF proteins at a crazy rate, and nobody can figure out what is happening.
Now of course, the immediate answer is there won’t be school, or there will only intermittently be school. That’s already started. From the Montgomery Advertiser, Pike County first of Alabama districts to temporarily close schools due to COVID-19 cases:
The Pike County School system in Troy announced it would cancel classes on Friday to deep clean its buildings amid a spike in COVID-19 cases, largely among its youngest students.
In a social media post Monday evening, the district outlined the plan to cancel Friday’s classes, keep Monday as a virtual learning day as planned and have students return on Aug. 24. The district did not address concerns from social media users about the decision to wait until Friday to take action.
The district reported 45 positive cases among its five schools, with two of those cases among adults, according to data posted Aug. 16 by the district on its website. The largest percentage of positive cases were among pre-K through third grade students, representing about half of the total. In addition to the positive cases, another 124 students and two staff members were in quarantine.
Lordie, hygiene theater still? The CDC’s refusal to loudly correct early misperceptions about Covid means that what has become misformation has a log tail.
Note that Pike County is far from the worst Covid area in Alabama. Per the Mayo case tracker, it’s seven day average case rate is 45 per 100,000 versus 110 per 100,000 for Shelby County, 115 per 100,000 for Mobile County, and 120 per 100,000 per Elmore County. Pike County also has a higher proportion of black citizens than Alabama as a whole (36% versus 26.8 for the state) so blaming this outcome on Bubbadom would be misleading.
The story concludes:
As thousands of students across the country are sent home to quarantine not even a month into the new school year, more Alabama districts are likely to close their doors in the coming weeks. Districts in several southern states have announced closures, including at least one in Georgia, Kentucky, Indiana and four in Texas.
Here’s the problem. As with Pike County, the pressure to open up schools is so great that they will be closed for short or longer term only after the contagion horse has left the barn and is in the next county. Notice the part where the biggest cohort positive cases was pre-K to third grade, and the additional 124 told to quarantine almost certainly had a significant representation in this age group.
Now….drumroll…kids 8 years old and younger quarantining? As in isolated in single room or part of the house for 11 days, meals delivered outside their doors and dirty dishes retrieved, plus a bathroom set aside for their exclusive use? I know of only two American adults who did a full bore quarantine, and one already lived alone. We don’t do quarantines in America.
So GM is right about 100% household attack rates before you get to any possible vaccination blunting. How far infections advance in schools before they move back to online learning is anyone’s guess. The one thing, perversely, that will favor schools being closed faster is that word has gotten out that children are winding up in hospitals with Delta, which wasn’t the case with wild type. So even though many parents, all things being equal, would prefer schools to be open, the possibility of having a severely ill child in most cases will more than offset that. And that’s before you get to evidence suggesting kids are also more susceptible to long Covid than adults:
“…More than half of children aged 6-16 years old who got COVID-19 had at least one symptom lasting more than 120 days. Even more alarming, the study reported that an astonishing 42.6% of those kids were impaired in their daily activities by the symptoms.” https://t.co/yw9RHkHPaM
— Laura Miers (@LauraMiers) August 23, 2021
Mind you, this likely outcome is dreadful not just from the standpoint of potential human cost but also stress on parents. KLG pointed out this Atlantic article Parents Are Not Okay:We’re not even at a breaking point anymore. We’re broken, which I urge you to read in full. After describing how hard it was to get through the last school year, the author states:
I am a father. I have a 6-year-old and a 16-year-old. And what I can tell you is that I am furious and I am afraid. I can also tell you that the only real difference between this year and last is that the most effective tool for keeping our kids safe—remote school—seems to be off the table. When cases were plummeting this spring, most every district and state board of education made the quick decision to stick a knife in remote school. It was awful last year, don’t get me wrong, and I understand what motivated that decision. But now we’re stuck with full-on, 30-kids-in-a-room, wide-open school as the Delta variant rages.
It’s a real monkey’s-paw situation, because, as a parent, all I’ve wanted for a year and a half is for my kids to go back to school—for their sake and for mine—but not like this. Now I’m stuck wishing that the thing that barely worked last year was still an option, because what’s looming is way worse.
School is only just starting and already kids are being quarantined in mind-boggling numbers: 20,000 across the state of Mississippi, 10,000 in a single district in Tampa, Florida. They’re getting sick too, with hospitalizations of kids under 17 across the country up at least 22 percent in the past month, by the CDC’s count, and each new week sets pediatric hospitalization records for the entire pandemic. The rapid increase of COVID-19 cases among kids has shattered last year’s oft-repeated falsehood that kids don’t get COVID-19, and if they do, it’s not that bad. It was a convenient lie that was easy to believe in part because we kept most of our kids home. With remote learning not an option now, this year we’ll find out how dangerous this virus is for children in the worst way possible.
And this is before the word has really gotten out that the vaccines we have now don’t do much to blunt transmission of Delta and their efficacy against severe infection wanes faster than anticipated too. More and more studies from reputable sources show how fully vaccinated people are testing positive and some even getting quite sick. As we pointed out, and the MSM is finally taking notice. We wrote about New York Magazine on Eric Topol of Scripps and the Financial Times worrying about lower than expected protection levels. Over the weekend, Bloomberg went the “whocouddanode” angle in he U.S. Is Getting a Crash Course in Scientific Uncertainty. From the top:
Anecdotes tell us what the data can’t: Vaccinated people appear to be getting the coronavirus at a surprisingly high rate. But exactly how often isn’t clear, nor is it certain how likely they are to spread the virus to others. And now, there’s growing concern that vaccinated people may be more vulnerable to serious illness than previously thought.
There’s a dearth of scientific studies with concrete answers, leaving public policy makers and corporate executives to formulate plans based on fragmented information. While some are renewing mask mandates or delaying office reopenings, others cite the lack of clarity to justify staying the course. It can all feel like a mess.
The lack of agency is stunning. It’s the CDC’s damned fault there is no data. The UK launched regular large scale blood tests. It also sequences the virus vastly more than we are.
And it was Rochelle Walensky and Fauci, admittedly amplified by far too many people who should have known better, who sold the vaccines as a magic bullet. Why aren’t they being held to account? It was obvious that unless and until we had a nasal vaccine (Novovax has one in the works and if we are lucky it might be out by late 2022), no Covid vaccine would achieve sterilizing immunity.
But the CDC and Biden Administration all got high on their own PR and told Americans to abandon masks, even when, assuming wild type Covid vaccine efficacy, the US vaccination rates were way too low to abandon caution. With Delta already rampaging across the US, this policy change was criminal. It cost lives and it will cost more lives.
To me personally it was never a shock to see the events of the last few months. As I have said on multiple occasions, the surprises were that the vaccines initially cut transmission by as much as they did, and that they worked as well as they did — few knowledgable people expected either. And we will probably never see those numbers again.
I did expect boosters to be needed, in two years, not in 6 months, but that is a difference of degree, not of a kind.
The shock to me was when I saw people in research, very prominent scientists I work with, authors of many papers on various aspects of immunology, directly involved in various projects studying COVID, etc. behaving as the regular people you are referring to. They genuinely believed it was all over. And they had been believing it since November 2020. But it only dawned on me that they truly are this deluded at some point in April 2021. I myself was in denial — of the reality that they were in denial of the reality of the virus — for many months.
I never would have believed such political and scientific ineptitude would rule the world. Walensky and Fauci can move the goal posts and prattle all they want to, but the word “vaccine” means to the people that they will be protected and spread will diminish to nearly nothing as a result of widespread vaccination, as with polio and smallpox. The people are also willing to accept some risk, too, if that is explained to them.
The relative ineffectiveness of these vaccines is becoming obvious to all but the most obtuse, who seem to be (1) physicians who seem to believe rather than see, public health officials who have lost the plot, and politicians at every level (local School Boards to the two nonjudicial branches of the US goverments). Still, I see some evidence we, as represented in the legitimate and disinterested scientific community, are doing much better on the science. At least I think we are, but I’m not sure it will matter as the backlash strengthens.
The Biden Administration is out to make the backlash worse. It’s doubling down on vaccinations as its one trick for dealing with Covid. On Monday, the Administration made clear that the reason for pushing for Boeing 737 style full authorization of the Pfizer Covid vaccine was so that employers could mandate vaccinations without worrying about pesky lawsuits. The lead para of the Financial Times story:
Joe Biden urged employers to require workers to get vaccinated against Covid-19 after the Food and Drug Administration granted full approval to the BioNTech/Pfizer jab.
Yet it is already obvious that variant proliferation means that for the near future, vaccine development and deployment will hopelessly lag the state of play and thus be less than fully effective.
What happens to the credibility of scientists, doctors, and officials as it become increasingly obvious that the “blame Bubba” for rising case counts doesn’t cut it, as more and more people know of someone or even themselves become Covid positive despite being fully vaccinated? There are already too many stories like this to keep under wraps:
— Diego Bassani, PhD 🏠😷💉 (@DGBassani) August 24, 2021
We’ve also been told, contrary to the official narrative, of Covid deaths among people who were fully vaccinated, with no co-morbidities. Yet the media is keeping up the story that Covid deaths among the vaccinated take place only among the diabetic, obese, and/or immunocompromised. Even if the exceptions so far aren’t a large proportion of the total, pretending they don’t, as if can’t, exist will only increase the credibility gap.
We’re going to see even more acting out as a result of trying to deal with cognitive dissonance among the PMC who’ve invested a lot in the “magic vaccines” tale. And as with Bubbadom, their first impulse will be to project and lash out at others as more and more evidence comes in that contradicts their deeply-held faith.
In other words, batten down the hatches. If you think it’s been rough so far, you ain’t seen nuthin’ yet.