There is some very bad news and some exceptionally good news about COVID-19. Let’s talk about the bad news first. If the 1918 pandemic model holds true, a new form of COVID-19 can arrive in the winter of 2020-2021. This “second wave” mutation would leave all the elderly untouched, but it would be many times deadlier for working-age Americans.
Politicians on both sides of the aisle are ignoring the elephant in the room. They are not telling the public the whole truth—that this October the world will probably be facing the arrival of a viciously mutated form of COVID-19 in the same month that flu season begins. A collision of these two viruses would create a perfect storm of pandemic sickness, the kind that has not been visited upon the earth since the winter of 1918. No one wants to talk about the huge risk that history could repeat itself.
Perhaps the politicians do not want the public to be alarmed. Congressional witnesses dance around the subject, using code words like “a second wave,” casually referring to the pandemic of 1918 as a “likely model” of what is to come. The second wave of the Spanish flu of 1918 was a world-record nightmare.
None of the politicians have the courage to tell you that the “second wave” of the 1918 model has the potential to be the medical equivalent of a tsunami. Politicians are talking about patching leaky lifeboats when they should be planning for an ark.
At present, COVID-19 is on track to kill approximately one-half of one percent of the planet’s population. That is not a high fatality rate as coronaviruses go. However, if no new vaccine is invented, those numbers can add up. In America, with a large population of over 328 million, that .5 percent mortality rate could eventually reach a million extra deaths.
Consider that the .5 percent rate is the best-case estimate. Only five months into this, we are already at 85,000 dead, and the virus keeps spreading everywhere in America except New York. America already has one-third of the world’s cases of COVID-19, and far more than one-third of the world’s deaths.
By any statistic, the USA in May 2020 is the most infected nation on the planet. It did not have to be. New Zealand and Australia did the best job of closing down COVID-19. It took ten hard weeks of near-total isolation, but now New Zealand has reported zero new cases. Zero. In just ten weeks of total isolation, New Zealand defeated COVID-19 completely. It can be done.
Israel came up with a smartphone algorithm to detect COVID-19 flare-ups so that they could quickly contain each local hot spot with medical support. They miraculously kept COVID-19 deaths below 300, but they still have not completely reopened the country, and they aren’t planning on doing so any time soon. The Japanese tried a partial relaxation, and it backfired. Same with Germany.
Nonetheless, some American states are planning to end their isolation even though they have more cases of infection than when they started the lockdown. Half-measures are worse than no measures at all. They lull us into complacency. We stop worrying about the worst-case option.
Dr. Richard Bright, recently demoted director of BARDA, testified before Congress that he believes that 2020 “could be the darkest winter in history.”