This is something I have been thinking about for awhile. I've mentioned it in previous posts. It's not entirely worked out, but I think it is still worth sharing.
There's a lot of bad blood and "Nyah, Nyah" back and forth over the pandemic, over measures meant to help control or limit it, and vaccines. There's a lot of sneering "Follow the science" from each side and cherry-picking of reports to support an existing opinion. I don't intend to dive into it here.
The truth is, our response to the pandemic does not have a lot to do directly with science, nor does it much matter who is "right" at any given time. Eventually, our species will co-adapt with this thing, and the process will be painful or easy -- but probably it will be as it has been so far, a little bit of both.
Early predictions said that if people in the U.S. did nothing to stop the virus, we might lose as many as 2.2 million people in the first few years. We did some things; not everyone went along. Vaccination rates are a good proxy for compliance, and Americans are still at about 66% vaccinated. We're closing in on a million dead -- a bit less than half the worst-case prediction, and (per my proxy) a bit more than half compliant with protective and preventive measures. For a first approximation, that's pretty darned close.*
Let's talk about science: it's just a way to ask useful questions and test them against reality. It's not magic; it never has all the answers and in the middle of a changing situation, "the science," the questions asked and the answers found and checked, varies. Technology is applied science; it follows where science leads, and the more closely it follows, the more often it goes down blind alleys and has to back up and start over. If you are vexed that CDC or NIH didn't have all the answers early in the pandemic, then maybe you don't quite get the way science works. It is not Revealed Unchanging Wisdom.
None of us quite get the way people
work. We'd all like to think we're all highly rational, right? It's those other folks, over there, the ones who don't agree with us who are emotional, fear-driven, excitable....
Nope. Oh, it's nice to think that, and some individuals are more cool-headed than others, at least on some topics. But for things like a planet-wide pandemic, that doesn't matter. What matters is our aggregate response.
As a group, we're clever, curious primates, easily bored, torn between caution and bravery. Set us down next to a volcano and we will fear its worst behavior, then approach it when it falls quiet, slowly at first but ever more brave the longer it is dormant. If it just rumbles and smokes, we will eventually take it for granted, even find it boring. "Same old Vesuvius, so dull," at least until the day it erupts. A group of humans encountering a sleeping or sick predator will creep up, maybe poke it with a stick or throw a rock. We'll fall back if it roars and some of us will run away. If it just lays there, we'll move closer. Back and forth, bravado and timidity.
That's how we have treated the pandemic, and that's how we will continue to treat it. When case rates soar, when people we know become ill, we're cautious. When case rates fall, when no one we know is in the hospital or home, sick, we're less likely to take precautions. At any given time, some of us are more daring and others are more careful -- but overall, our behavior ebbs and flows with the pandemic, being driven by it and driving it
Omicron appears to be receding. I think it is likely to prove the highest wave -- but it's probably not the last one. We're bored, impatient. Deaths per cases were way down. Hospitalizations as a percentage of cases were lower. The beast isn't roaring as loudly. We are -- as a group -- going to be less cautious as Spring approaches. That may get us another wave of cases. Or perhaps when the heat of Summer has more people indoors in air-conditioning, we'll see a rise in cases. But count on it, we'll see another wave, and I think it will be smaller. And perhaps another after that.
The virus will be endemic. Like the flu or the common cold, it's going to be here with us and some years will be worse than others. If you haven't have a COVID-19 infection yet, you probably will. The latest information in immune response looks promising. This is the first big pandemic doctors and other researchers have been able to study with modern methods, and they are learning a lot they didn't know before. If you are vaccinated, or you get through your first COVID-19 infection without lasting damage, you are far more likely to have a mild case next time.
I'd still advise getting vaccinated. The odds of a safe outcome are better -- much better
-- than getting (and surviving) an initial infection. But one way or another, we're all going to meet up with this virus eventually.______________________* As a technician, as an occasional SF writer, I deal with this kind of a problem in a couple of different but similar ways: Fermi estimates, which give you answers good within an order of magnitude (if the Fermi estimate is "10," then the answer's somewhere between 1 and 100, and probably closer to 10 than not) and slide-rule accuracy, which is three-digit accuracy within any order of magnitude -- pi is 3.14 on a slide rule and a year is 3.65 x 10^2 days. This is good enough for nearly everything an average person encounters doing average things in an average day; it's not nearly as accurate as we hope the person making our eyeglasses or prescription drugs will be, but it's plenty good enough for big-picture analysis.