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Where we stand with Covid and the coming vaccines

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The Village of Lawrence sent out the work of immunologist and resident Dr. Marc Sicklick to help understand the complexity of the continued spread of the coronavirus and explain and clarify what is happening.

If you watch or read the news, you’re being bombarded with conflicting messages on a continuous basis. Hang in there, the vaccines are coming. Watch out, the numbers are horrible and worsening. There are newer treatment modalities and there are more survivors. Some hospitals are overwhelmed and the number of deaths is climbing.

It’s getting hard to focus on reality and know where we really are. How do we react?  How do we keep sanity with all these conflicting messages?  Up.  Down.  The news stories give our brains conflicting data. The reporting is giving us large mood swings.

I want to show two groups of graphs. One is a 7-day weighted average of cases showing both absolute numbers and percent positive. Politicians make heavy use of the percent positive and New York City schools were closed because they hit their magic number- 3 percent. Graph-1 is very local and is broken down by zip codes.

Lawrence is turquoise. The 7-day weighted average is clearly headed in the wrong direction. This is reality today. It is not a prediction. It is a fact.

As more people are positive, we increase the chances of spread.

The second set of graphs (2 and 3) shows past reality and future predictions for New York state. As you can see, both the number of cases and deaths (which lag weeks behind the presentation of new cases) are predicted to continue to climb significantly over the next two to three months. We are at the beginning of the upward trend.

The red line is the prediction if people don’t mask and socially space. The green line is based on everyone following the rules and on everyone worrying about everyone else.  The middle projection is based on most, but not all, following the rules. It’s their attempt to be realistic.

The past and current are reality. We can’t change those numbers and we have had to deal with them. We never want to return to April. The projections are not etched in stone and our behavior will have major impact on whether or not this gloomy prediction comes to fruition.

What is my bottom line?

We are definitely going up and we need to be very careful, more careful than we were in the summer. We need social distancing and masks and we need to avoid groups and certainly should not take chances on Thanksgiving. Biologic kinship does not prevent spread.  Anyone not living in your house is increasing the risk to you unless they have spent the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving in isolation. 

These basic acts will lower the predicted curves and save many lives and prevent some cases of chronic illness that can come from Covid.

The news is not all bleak. The vaccine data does look promising and I have separately written a brief article about the new vaccines.

But no matter how good the vaccines will be, they are not here now.  No one wants to be infected today, during the window between the potential mass inoculation in a few months and the reality of no mass inoculation today or in the immediate future. This is not the time to lower your guard.  

The light is visible in the distance.  But as Yogi Berra said in 1973: “It ain’t over until it’s over.”   The vaccine is not yet here for us. Neither is herd immunity.