Successful prediction is often a downer. TV news this morning is reporting that the CDC is concerned we may be in for another wave. The decline in new infections in the U. S. had slowed, stalled -- and is starting to climb.
Tam can tell you that I was thinking we'd see another peak; I told her a couple a weeks ago that there was a race on between vaccination (and overall immunity), the new and more communicable strains of the virus, and springtime impatience.
Even in a year not haunted by a pandemic, many people greet the end of winter with renewed activity -- and after a stunted holiday season, with plummeting infection rates and mass vaccination underway, what normal person wouldn't be optimistic? When we extrapolate from past events-- you, me or popular media pundits -- we do so linearly: "if this keeps on--" And the graph looked good.
It didn't keep on. It's a lagging indicator in an under-damped feedback loop.* When the winter storm stalled vaccine deliveries, when approval of Johnson & Johnson one-shot vaccine kept on being "right around the corner" for weeks, we fell behind in the race against mutations.†
So I'm betting on another peak. How tall, for how long -- I've no idea. By now, most people have seen this thing wax and wane; many people have lost friends and family, or friends of friends, and are less inclined to shrug it off. Others are frustrated. A growing proportion of us are immune (how immune and for how long, we don't know). How will it play out?
I don't know. Here's hoping for the best. The fourth wave of the 1917 - 20 influenza epidemic had significantly lower infection and mortality rates than the second and third. We adapt. We learn.
* Most complex systems with behavior controlled in part by past output act like a phase-locked loop. Your home thermostat and furnace is a simple PLL. They "hunt" to stability; the temperature in your house varies up and down a few degrees during heating or cooling season, with the thermostat turning the heating or cooling on and off. A good system has only a little variation; it is "critically damped." The furnace has to be well-sized for the load: too small a furnace, and it runs all the time and falls behind ("overdamped") -- too powerful, and you alternately sweat and shiver as it clicks on, dumps in too much heat too quickly, and switches off, over and over. The latter case is "underdamped." And our species-wide response to many kinds of threats is underdamped -- en masse, we keep dancing right up to the edge and a little too far, then back way off. Rinse, lather, repeat. With a week or two between exposure and full-on illness and a death rate lagging a week or two behind that, this virus inherently creates an underdamped response: by the time we have a good, clear sign of trouble, we're already behind the curve.
† What self-respecting SF writer can type that phrase in earnest and not blink?
BUILDING A 1:1 BALUN
1 year ago