August 4, 2020 ~ New York City got through the first big wave of the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. at a tremendous cost to New Yorkers. It hurt our Latin and Black communities the hardest.
Science is based on the best information available. When the information changes, the science changes, as it should. This is the best information we have at the present moment.
- Wear a mask at all times whenever you leave your home group. Some experts recommend wearing a mask at home if you live in a multi-generational household.
- Social distance at least six feet (two meters or roughly two arm lengths) at all times.
- Avoid crowds.
- Avoid being indoors with people outside your home group.
- Practice good personal hygiene (wash your hands, don’t touch your face, cough away from people, and reduce your other risk factors like smoking or vaping).
None of this is hard. Do it for your fellow New Yorkers. Do it for your family. Do it for yourself. Masks protect others and protect you too.
This virus can be defeated if people just wear a mask.”CDC Director, Dr. Robert Redfield, ABC News, July 28, 2020
If you get sick, how sick you get seems to depend on your own health risks and the dosage you received. A small exposure is likely to make you less sick or not sick at all. A large exposure is likely to make you more sick.
The greatest danger is indoors because the virus remains in aerosols created just by breathing. You can visualize aerosols as your steamy breath on a cold day. We only shop early in the morning to shop in the cleanest air and avoid crowds.
Places where groups gather indoors are more dangerous. That includes senior homes, ships, jails, military installations and places of worship. Singing, dancing and drinking create risk.
The best analogy for the COVID-19 Coronavirus is fire. One spark of fire can burn your house down. If something was sparking in your home, you wouldn’t rest until all the sparks were out. Right now there are a lot of sparks of coronavirus out there.
Everyone is stressed by the unending uncertainty, so it helps if we all bring it down a notch.
At this point, it is likely that COVID-19 will never completely go away. We have to change our “normal” behaviors. A public health crisis affects everyone, so it’s never been more true that our lives depend on our ability to function as one community of New Yorkers.
How Does the COVID-19 Coronavirus Pandemic End?
The COVID-19 Coronavirus Pandemic likely began in China in November 2019, but that doesn’t mean we should harass Asian Americans. Most Asian Americans have been Americans for generations.
The likely first known case in the United States reached Washington state on January 20, 2020. Since then the Federal Government has completely bungled the public health response by politicizing it. Public health is not political. One of the better responses has been the science-based work of New York Governor Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio.
Believe it or not, red or blue, the pandemic has spread across the United States, in both urban and rural areas.
The Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918
While nobody can precisely predict how the pandemic progresses, the past is the best predictor of the future. The best information we have from the past is the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918.
It’s called the “Spanish Flu” because nations fighting World War I blocked reporting of it. Being neutral, Spain didn’t have the same media restrictions, so the name stuck from Spanish reporting. It wasn’t Spain’s fault. The Spanish Flu pandemic most likely started in the United States at a military installation in Kansas. It spread with the U.S. military effort in Europe and then around the world.
The similarities between the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 and the COVID-19 pandemic are profound. The COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic is likely to follow a similar path.
The Spanish Flu pandemic started in January and February 2018 in the United States. That’s the same time of year when COVID-19 started in the U.S.
At first many people said the Spanish Flu would be a minor cold. The U.S. Federal Government and other politicians said the same thing about COVID-19.
Countries closed borders, schools and theaters just as we are doing now. People fought with each other about wearing masks, just as we are doing now.
Worshiping in groups spread the Spanish Flu early on, in the same way that houses of worship have spread COVID-19. The bishop of Zamora, Spain held a large mass to pray for deliverance. It became a super spreading event. Americans have the right to worship in whatever way we choose, but what person of faith insists on praying when it might kill people?
The CDC (U.S. Center for Disease Control) estimates that about one-third of the world’s population got the Spanish Flu, and that about 675 thousand died in the United States and about 50 million people around the world.
Six months into the COVID-19 Pandemic, the New York Times reports 4.8 million infections in the United States and about 158,000 deaths. If this goes on for two years, we will end up with about the same number of deaths as the Spanish Flu.
The Spanish Flu Pandemic came in waves. The first wave was January and February. A second more deadly wave came in September during the harvest and related celebrations. Some regions faced a third wave in 1919 and some suffered into 1920.
We hope COVID-19 is different, but the history of the Spanish Flu suggests we have at least one hard winter ahead of us, if not two. Winter is harder because people are forced indoors.
Pandemics have multiple endings. One is the end of the disease. The other is the end of worrying about it and a general return to “normal.”
The Spanish Flu Pandemic ended in 1920 when most of the world developed herd immunity. That means enough people already had the disease that it couldn’t spread easily. History suggests we are in for about two years of the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Science was much less advanced in 1918 and there was no vaccine. Today Washington politicians are hoping for an “October Surprise” of a vaccine to justify their reelection. Most vaccines take decades to develop. Even then they have sometimes been not quite right and hurt many people.
We support vaccination, but safe vaccine development should proceed on a medical and public health schedule, not a political one. Furthermore, once a safe vaccine is developed, it has to be manufactured and delivered at scale. Each step is a huge challenge. We are not basing our current behavior on the assumption that a vaccine will save us any time soon, if ever.
The Spanish Flu virus and its descendants are still with us today. It’s not as deadly now because many people have developed resistance, but it’s still around. That suggests that COVID-19 is also likely to be with us forever too.
The experience of the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918-1920 suggests that “normal” life won’t return until 2022. And it will be a new normal. Life won’t quickly return to the way it was, and probably never will. The pandemic will end, but life will be changed.
The best article we found early on in the pandemic was “How the Pandemic Will End” by Ed Yong in “The Atlantic” on March 25, 2020. It’s sad that a journalist could call the pandemic correctly during the early stages back in March, just ten days after shutdown, when almost five months later, the U.S. Federal Government is still fumbling and selling conspiracy theories.
Again, we are not experts, but this is what we believe to be true at this moment based on the history of the last global pandemic. This is the information we are using to plan our own lives. We don’t trust anything in social media.
We have to learn to live with COVID-19 and so far we have not been very good at that. Our best hope for the future is to work on solving this problem together.