Fourth COVID wave targets the young and restless

The good news is that herd immunity is starting to take hold. This does not mean no Covid. It means less Covid. Less Covid overall means less chance of the next trillion-to-one dangerous mutation. Google the words “herd immunity” and “influenza” and running off the page will be evidence that herd immunity has never been taken to mean a disease stops existing. Flu still kills children by the dozens or hundreds in the U.S each year. If our testing is missing 80% of cases, the current fourth wave is equivalent to a medium-severity flu season. Flu is a contributing cause in the deaths of old and severely ill people (cancer, diabetes, lung conditions) often long after they stop testing positive for the flu virus. Warren Oates, the cowboy actor with a cult following among film aficionados, died at 53 from a heart attack complicated by a bout of flu plus hard living. Paul Newman, as a 40-year-old, was hospitalized for five days with the flu.

Even with new variants emerging, even with pharmaceutical companies engaged in a constant race to update their vaccines against an evolving virus, the epidemic will become a lot less epidemic-like. Activities that are pleasurable and productive will be less needful to avoid because the risk will be less.

A wild card is China, with its giant uninfected and (so far) unvaccinated population as it reopens to its largely immunized trading partners. Wild cards are other swaths of the world where the epidemic is still running a mostly (and tragically) natural course with unknown consequences for viral evolution.