Experts Are Worried About the Potential of Another Brutal COVID Winter

Back in the first genuine COVID lull we experienced — you know, the one that started to make the long-term infection rate for this thing look like the low point on an endless “W,” that place where capitalism first said IT’S GONE NOW YOU GUYS COME MAKE US MONEY until the inevitable resurge came — I remember a day when it was reported that only 7,000 people had been infected. It was a moment I rejoiced in, which is a bit strange when you think back, but it’s important to remember how those early days were. It was a total number of 7,000 infections that was considered good news.

Fast forward to today, when it was reported the 14-day average number of new infections was 108.215 per day. This is a 1 percent increase. Few seem to be reeling in the face of this increase.

The 14-day average has been reliably clocking in around 100,000 new daily infections for many weeks now, and that tally is no doubt an undercount, given that many tests are currently happening solely at home — or not at all. These rising numbers should be heard as a warning that COVID does not end and that winter is on the horizon.

“The coronavirus is still mutating,” reportsEd Yong The Atlantic. “Even at one of the lowest death rates of the pandemic, it still claims the lives of hundreds of Americans daily, killing more than twice as many people as die, on average, in car accidents. Its costs are still disproportionately borne by millions of long-haulers; immunocompromised people; workers who still face unsafe working conditions; and Black, Latino, and Indigenous Americans, who are still dying at higher rates than white Americans.”

The heart of the matter is the last sentence. The infection rate remains high but the number of deaths from COVID has fallen overall. This is due to vaccines and boosters, which are still not widely available due to militant conservative resistance and other factors. However, they have made a significant impact. It’s also thanks to new treatments, which aren’t equally distributed, either. These vaccines have made COVID an easy but not impossible experience for millions of white people who aren’t affected by compromised immune systems, and who live in responsible work environments. Vaccinated people are still getting infected, sometimes more than once, but their bouts are, ah, ha, hum, “mild” by comparison to the raw deal.

Apologies for the “ah, ha, hum,” but a friend’s recent experience with COVID remains fresh in mind. My friend, her husband and their 4-year-old boy — the boy caught it first — were all laid out flat by the virus. My friend was an epileptic and sensitive to high body temperatures. Her husband had to watch her little boy blaze with fever during a terrifying febrile seizure. He was infected well before other children his age could get vaccinated. This put him in a greater danger. They’re all still here, but that is what passes for “mild” for millions of people.

COVID may seem quiet now, for some — The Washington Post’sEditorial board describes the moment as a “twilight zone” in which the virus is “neither causing major disruption to the nation nor vanishing” — and the bulk of summer is laid out before us. Everyone is still feeling exhausted from the emotional impact of two years’ worth of fear and more that 1,000,000 deaths. Most people have found themselves struggling to manage their budgets due to the economic effects of this long, difficult season. RoeThe midterm elections are here and politics, in general, remains the chaos factory we have all endured for far to long.

Nobody wants to hear anymore about COVID, and herein lies the danger, as experts are deeply concerned about the possibility of another brutal COVID winter. Ed Yong The Atlantic explains further:

Almost all government efforts to curb the coronavirus in the country have failed. Public transit has been freed from mask mandates. Conservative lawmakers have hampered what public-health department can do in an emergency. COVID funding remains blocked in Congress, which could impact supplies of vaccines, treatments, and tests. The White House and the CDC have framed COVID as a problem for individuals to act upon — but action is hard when cases and hospitalizations are underestimated, many testing sites have closed, and rose-tinted CDC guidelines downplay the coronavirus’s unchecked spread. Many policy makers have moved on.

The virus variants BA.4 and BA.5 have already begun to inflict havoc on Europe and other parts the world. This is a frightening preview of what might be coming, as these variants are already infected. well on their wayto be the dominant vector in this nation. A new wave of infections will almost certainly strike the vulnerable groups mentioned above, who have been so far effectively cut off from normal life.

“The pandemic’s toll is no longer falling almost exclusively on those who chose not to or could not get shots,” reports The Boston Globe “with vaccine protection waning over time and the elderly and immunocompromised — who are at greatest risk of succumbing to covid-19, even if vaccinated — having a harder time dodging increasingly contagious strains.”

We are now required to be proactive about dealing with more major crises than any reasonable society should have to. War, climate, economy, freedom: If it feels like everything is suddenly on the line right now, it’s because everything is suddenly on the line right now. The instinct — no, the near-unendurable physical need — to slam the door on all of it is towering.

We cannot do this, and COVID remains at the top of the list. This is a threat among many that has already claimed a million lives. If we do not act now to implement reasonable mask requirements, provide widespread vaccination accessibility (including for young children, now that they’re eligible), and ensure treatments are as broadly available as possible, we must plan for another dangerous winter. Failing to do so is like stepping into a large and growing graveyard.

Let us not again tread on the path of bones to get to the new year.