Let’s talk silver linings: It appears the common flu has essentially vanished in the United States. That’s right; there are fewer influenza cases in the US this season than at any time in the last 25 years. Most experts chalk up this remarkable success to the public’s efforts to fight the new coronavirus. While we can’t be sure which specific precautions worked most effectively against the flu, it’s safe to say that masking, sanitizing, and handwashing likely contributed to such a victory.
New Normals, New Vaccines
Now, back to our regularly scheduled pandemic: In a recent poll from the research journal Nature, scientists grappled with trying to predict the future we face with SARS-CoV-2. As the fallout from the virus continues, and continues, and continues, our lives may never return to what we thought of as “normal” before 2020.
Of course, the full extent of the change is still unknown. As described in the article, “The future will depend heavily on the type of immunity people acquire through infection or vaccination and how the virus evolves.”
Also changing quickly are the options available for navigating out of this pandemic-stricken present world. In addition to the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, we may soon be able to opt for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, since it is entering the final stages of approval from the Food and Drug Administration. This vaccine can be given in a single dose, which would mean faster vaccinations and, ideally, a quicker road to herd immunity.
Just Don’t Expect Easy At-Home Testing
An additional way forward is rapid at-home testing. You would think that if multiple vaccines for an entirely new disease could be created in less than a year, then affordable, rapid at-home testing would surely follow suit — but in the US, at least, you would be wrong.
While a $5 at-home testing kit produced in Pasadena, CA, is now available for UK residents, FDA regulations have so far kept the tests from being sold in the United States.
Keep on Scrubbin’
You may have become a rigorous scrubber of surfaces this pandemic, or possibly you decided that the risk of viral transmission from touching objects isn’t worth the stress. Either way, it’s fair to say that certain areas, if exposed to a person with the virus (such as hospital beds and rooms), should probably be wiped down. Fortunately, we may eventually have surfaces that are bioengineered to destroy viruses. How nice it would be to be extra cautious without stressing over empty containers of sanitizing wipes.
No matter the steps we take to return to the world we used to have, we must remain cautious. The virus is sure to return one way or another.
Get in Line, One Way or Another
The long saga of vaccine distribution continues, and while we certainly have some do-gooders, we also still have the other kind: People who give big bucks to hospitals have been under fire for receiving special access to COVID-19 vaccines, which has brought attention to the many ways that donors get to bypass rules and regulations, both pre- and post-COVID-19.
There are more ethical ways to get a place in line, though: The “Good Neighbor” program in Detroit allows anyone over the age of 55 to receive a vaccine, if they are able to drive someone over 60 to receive their vaccine as well. The city hopes that this program will make it possible for many more seniors to get vaccinated.
If you don’t live in a “Good Neighbor” city, there are still (ethical) ways to access the vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-backed VaccineFinder has been in operation for about a decade pre-COVID-19 and links people with vaccine sites to make the search a little easier.
All Connected, for Better and Worse
The fallout from the pandemic continues, and we’re still processing the events of last year. In a gripping story in the Nation, reporter Amy Littlefield revisits the chaos, pain, and devastation of the many people who struggled to access abortions during the long spring and summer of COVID-19. While this reveals yet another way that lives have been altered by the pandemic, it is really a story of the slow and steady erosion of Roe v. Wade in middle America — as told by the people on the ground with the most to lose.
Related front page panorama photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from Baltimore County Government / Flickr.